A wildlife camera has captured elusive footage of a rare animal that hasn't been seen in Yorkshire for over 30 years.
Non-profit group NatureSpy announced that one of their 'camera traps' had produced the first ever images of a pine marten in the county after one was filmed on Forestry Commission land in the North York Moors area.
Although a skull was found back in 1993, there hasn't been a living record of the mammals' presence for 35 years, and no conclusive sightings.
The volunteers have spent the past four years monitoring cameras at several locations in the hope of finding proof of the creatures' existence in Yorkshire.
Pine martens are reclusive and difficult to track without the aid of technology and bait to tempt them down to the forest floor from their treetop habitat.
They are most commonly found in the Scottish Highlands, and there is also a small population in Wales. Evidence of them living in Cumbria was discovered in 2011.
Helmsley resident Paul Williams saw a pine marten in the town last year.
"It was rooting through some waste bins at the Helmsley Walled Garden. It was about 6am and I was walking my dog. She was more interested in the pine marten than it was in her. The pine marten was about two feet away, on the ground and gave me a looking over and after finishing its rooting, lumbered off towards the copse by the stables. It was the first and only time I have seen one and when I got back home I looked online to make sure it was a pine marten."
Project co-ordinator Ed Snell said:-
“To finally prove pine marten presence in Yorkshire is a massive achievement for everyone involved. Pine marten are such an important species, being the second rarest carnivorous mammal in the UK, it’s so exciting to plan the next stage of the project and aid whatever populations we may have here.”
NatureSpy have now launched a Crowdfunding campaign to cover the costs of the new stage of the project, which will include collecting DNA samples and creating habitat management plans.
Visit http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/searching-for-pine-marten-in-yorkshire to donate.