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Pine marten and Polecat

The pine marten and polecat are carnivores which receive different levels of protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). The pine marten is very rare; but our polecat population is now recovering well

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Pine marten

Pine martens are extremely rare in Wales. There are a few recent records from Carmarthenshire and Snowdonia, but the only specimen to be found in the last 40 years was a road casualty in mid-Wales in 2012.

The pine marten has a creamy coloured throat and a chocolate brown coat. It is an agile climber and needs suitable cavities in trees to raise its young. Pine martens eat small mammals, birds, beetles, nuts and berries. They rely on wooded and often rocky locations which tend to be remote from human populations.

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) gives full protection to pine martens under Schedule 5. It is also listed on Schedule 6, which prohibits certain methods of capture and killing.

For Schedule 5 species, the following are offences:

  • Intentional taking, killing or injuring
  • Intentionally / recklessly damaging or destroying its place of shelter / protection
  • Intentionally / recklessly disturbing it whilst occupying its place of shelter / protection
  • Intentionally / recklessly obstructing access to its place of shelter / protection
  • Sale, or offering / exposing for sale
  • Possession


The polecat had almost disappeared from Wales by 1900 as a result of persecution, but has made an impressive recovery since then. It has now spread throughout Wales again, although it remains somewhat elusive.

Polecats have distinct ‘bandit’ markings around their eyes and a brindled brown coat. They are adept hunters, able to catch rabbits in their burrows and even to swim. They are found in a variety of habitats including sand dunes, farmland, woodland and marshes.

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) lists the polecat on Schedule 6. This prohibits certain methods of killing or taking animals, which are specified in Section 11. These include using the following:

  • Any trap or snare, electrical device or poisonous / stupefying substances
  • Any net
  • Any automatic or semi-automatic weapon
  • Any device for illuminating a target / sighting device
  • Any dazzling device
  • Any gas or smoke
  • Any sound recording as a decoy
  • Any mechanically propelled vehicle

If you are setting traps to catch pest species, or under a licence from Natural Resources Wales (NRW), we advise you to read the following guidance notes: ‘Incidental trapping of Schedule 5 and Schedule 6 animals’ and ‘’Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 Relevant Sections’.

If you wish to carry out surveys / research that would involve offences under this legislation, you must apply for a licence from NRW.

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