THE pursuit of one of England’s rarest mammals has started in South Lakeland.

A coast-to-coast 15-day search across northern England aims to track down the rare and elusive pine marten.

As many as 200 volunteers could be getting involved in the search, which began in Grizedale Forest.

The pursuit, involving a mix of hiking and 4x4 travel, will then pass up through sites in West Cumbria, North Cumbria and Northumberland, before going down through Durham and finishing in the North Yorkshire Moors on Wednesday, August 25.

The group have so far visited forests in Thirlmere and the Eden Valley among other locations in a bid to find the rare creature.

Volunteers and scientists with the Herefordshire-based Vincent Wildlife Trust are setting up remote cameras to try to capture footage of the rare animal. They are also using cameras with scent and sound lures to attract them, while groups are searching for pine marten droppings and are erecting and surveying den boxes at woodland sites.

Although no pine martens have been found yet, morale is high among the searchers.

“I’m really enjoying the pursuit - it’s been brilliant,” said Lizzie Croose, administration and field assistant with the trust.

“We’re still very hopeful of finding one and the weather has been fantastic so far.

“Pine martens are really rare. We know they’re surviving in small pockets and one of those pockets is in the Lake District. We need to know what’s going on with them, find out why they’re not recovering and see what we can do to help these small populations that we have got.”

The pine marten had become extinct throughout much of Britain by the early part of the 20th century because they were killed off by foxes, who compete with pine martens for food, and humans, who used the creatures’ fur for clothing.

Small populations survived in Wales and the Marches in Lanark, Scotland, and in areas of northern England. Relatively strong populations are still to be found in some parts of the Scottish Highlands where persecution pressures are less.

If anybody spots a pine marten, they can report the sighting to the trust on 01531 636441, or complete an online form from