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Largest ever study of rare pine marten 03.12.15

THE largest ever count of one of Ireland's rarest native mammals - the pine marten - will be undertaken next year.
Hair samples from the cat-sized creature will be collected in 11,000 hectares of forestry throughout the country as part of a genetic wildlife study.
Fieldworkers from Waterford Institute of Technology will work in collaboration with the Agri-food Biosciences Institute of Northern Ireland to determine the abundance of the protected species.
As part of the project, pine marten hair samples will be taken from their woodland habitats during the spring and summer of 2016.
The samples will be analysed to establish data including the mammals' population numbers; unique genetic markers; geographic distribution and ratio of males to females.
The Pine Marten in Ireland. Photo: Maurice Flynn.
The pine marten is one of Ireland's rarest native mammals.
The forest dweller eats berries, seeds, frogs and birds and became almost extinct in the twentieth century due to fur-hunting, habitat-loss and persecution.
The slow-breeding mammal, with its distinctive dark fur and cream-coloured chest, only managed to survive in small numbers in isolated areas along the west coast.
The wide-ranging new survey is being funded by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.
"The population data collected will be used to assess the conservation status, management needs and future monitoring of this species in Ireland," the NPWS said in a statement.
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