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Suggestion pine martens will attack young children 'alarmist and irresponsible'

Farmers have raised concerns about the growing population of these small mammals in Ireland.

Image: pine marten image via Shutterstock

A WILDLIFE EXPERT has pleaded the case of the once threatened pine marten which has recently been accused of killing livestock on Irish farms.

Longford Fine Gael councillor Padraig Brady, who is also a sheep farmer, has hit out at the small mammals, which he blames for the recent deaths of two of his lambs.

Yesterday he told Newstalk: “I have no problem with the pine marten. But when something is out of control and doing damage, I think somebody has to stand up and be counted.”

God forbid what happened in England happens here, where a pine marten comes in and attacks a baby in a cot. I can guarantee you that’s coming down the road.

Brady was referring to an incident during which a fox in England attacked a baby boy in his cot.

However, Billy Flynn of the Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) told TheJournal.ie that the increase in the number of pine martens in Ireland in the last number of years should be seen as a success story.

“When I started working in the wildlife area, the pine marten was still on the edge of extinction. It was petering on the brink and could well have gone entirely,” he explained.

Now, the small animals can be found all over the country.

They’re really elusive, very shy, really clever and quite nocturnal. They are such a beautiful creature, their fur was highly prized, which contributed to their numbers being decimated.

‘Alarmist’

Flynn said there are “no recorded incidents” of pine martens attacking humans.

“To suggest pine martens would be breaking into people’s houses to attack babies is alarmist and irresponsible in my opinion.”

He also rejected suggestions that pine martens have been responsible for the deaths of livestock.

They’re no bigger than a cat. You might as well be suggesting that domestic cats are going around preying on sheep and lambs.

He did concede that the small predators catch birds in trees and are capable of “knocking off a few hens in a not very well secured hen-house”.

“There are guidelines out there for securing your domestic fowl against pine martens,” he said. “And on the plus side, they also eat mice and rats, which people aren’t happy to have around.”

Pine martens also prey on the grey squirrel and this is believed to be one of the reasons the native red squirrel is making a comeback in Ireland, according to Flynn.

‘Out of control’

Though Flynn insists there are no recorded incidents of pine martens killing livestock, Cavan sheep farmer Paul Brady told this website he has lost a number of lambs over the years to the predators.

“I have seen them running away within 20 or 30 metres from me and then seen the lambs dead on the ground, I’ve seen them from 30 metres away standing over the lambs, day-old lambs, and you’d go over to them and they’d be dead,” he said.

They definitely seem to be multiplying, I feel they’re gone very much out of control.

The small animals are becoming one of the biggest worries for sheep farmers, according to Brady.

“I have less of a fear of foxes now than I have of pine martens and no one’s ever talking about them – they’re worse than any fox.”

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