'Out-of-control' pine martens blamed for killing livestock on Irish farms

FG councillor tells Newstalk he fears animal could also injure babies in their cots

'Out-of-control' pine martens blamed for killing livestock on Irish farms

File photo: Wikimedia Commons

“Out-of-control” pine martens have been blamed for killing livestock and scavenging through bins in the midlands.

The animal – which is related to the Irish stoat, otter and badger – has seen its population gradually recover in Ireland after facing near extinction in the 20th century.

Fine Gael councillor Paraic Brady from Longford said action was now needed to prevent pine martins from injuring and killing sheep and lambs.

He told Newstalk Lunchtime that the species had created a significant financial burden for farmers in the region and should be "put back into normal figures". 

“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,” he said.

Mr Brady told the programme that he feared a young child could be injured if the animal managed to gain entry to a house. 

"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."

He added that he was concerned at how quickly the population has grown in forested areas of Longford, Cavan and Leitrim.

“The numbers are phenomenal around where I live … One time, you wouldn’t see them.

“Now there’s not a week goes by where there’s not two or three killed on road. You’d see at least one every morning.”

The Fine Gael councillor said pine martens were able to access land through three-inch holes and could climb greater heights than foxes because of their claws.

“Pine martens can get in nine times out of 10 where a fox can’t,” he said.

Size of a cat

However, Kate McAney of the Vincent Wildlife Trust insisted the growing population should be no cause for concern.

She told Newstalk Lunchtime that locals should secure their land and avoid leaving food out if they want to keep pine martens away.

“We’re talking about an animal that’s considered a carnivore. Carnivores have to kill prey … It’s a natural and necessary process.

“If large numbers of potential prey are not well protected by fencing, netting and strong pen houses, can we really blame a predator for coming along and taking something that’s there for the taking?”

Ms McAney said the animals are territorial and only about the size of a domestic cat.

“If you’re keeping your bin closed and not putting food out, the animal won’t play around,” she said.

She also dismissed Mr Brady's suggestion that pine martens could injure young people as “scaremongering”.

“This is a small woodland animal that is normally nocturnal and will normally stay away from human contact,” she said.