Mesocarnivore (Mustelid) conservation research in the Netherlands

Small and less imposing critters matter as well and micro- and mesocarnivores should not be left out of the equation! Hence members of the foundation study the conservation ecology of Mustelids in the east of the Netherlands, devoid of any large carnivores. We look at the lower rungs of the trophic cascade in our backyard.

In 2009 a study commenced on the landscape ecology of Mustelids in the IJssel River Valley in the east of the Netherlands. It is aimed to be a longer term monitoring focused on gaining ecological knowledge of a community of Mustelids (badger, pine marten, stone marten, polecat, stoat, weasel and recently introduced otter) and other mesocarnivores in a fragmented cultural landscape. This knowledge is used to underpin the conservation ecology and support nature management actions for Mustelids and other endemic mesocarnivores. See current status of this project submitted as poster for the 29th International Mustelid Colloqium.

Mustelid co-existence research using cameratraps.  By E. van Maanen.

Main activities are:

  • Yearly survey and occupancy study of Mustelids using remote or trail cameras (cameratrapping), den search, tracks & signs, tracking plates and life-trapping.
  • Improvement of camera trapping techniques (watch sample videos) to enhance detection rate for Mustelids and hence obtain more reliable data on occupancy and spatio-temporal relationships, and other ecological or behavioural data.
  • Development of an individual recognition or ‘passport’ (biometrics) system for pine marten and stone marten (see example of pine marten passport in current development).
  • Collection of genetic material to determine population origins and landscape genetics. Gaining information on the reproduction and fecundity of martens.
  • Determine bottlenecks in the landscape, such as black spots for badgers and martens along roads, so that well-tailored mitigation measures can be advised to infrastructure & transport management authorities and land-use planners.
  • Gaining information on the landscape ecology of Mustelids, in particular meta-population ecology and dispersal mechanisms in fragmented forest and agricultural landscapes.
  • Gaining information on behavior and ecology of interacting Mustelids in the Dutch modified landscape and forest management context.
  • Gaining information on interspecific or intra-guild relationships of Mustelids and other mesocarnivores present (fox and feral cat).
  • Investigation into the decline or current conservation status of small Mustelids (common weasel, stoat and polecat), a species group receiving very little attention in the Netherlands at present. Unrevelling possible and combined decline causes such as new generation rodenticides (e.g. brodifacoum), mole extermination, agricultural intensification, dessication and landscape changes (habitat fragmentation).
  • Consulting to forest and nature management organizations on habitat improvement and conservation measures for Mustelids.
  • Conflict resolution in the relationship of urban stone martens and people.

Weasel family reluctantly crossing a ‘formidable’  road barrier.  By E. van Maanen.

The project has so far revealed much interesting information, such as many new locations with pine marten hitherto largely unknown, and confirming reproduction of the stone marten in central Holland with expansion to the west. Accent is currently placed on gaining information of the conservation status of small mustelids, which are apparently becoming scarce in comparison to the larger mustelids, and are poorly studied in the Netherlands.

Left: pine marten in nest hollow Right: tracking stone marten in the snow. By E. van Maanen.

The project takes place within the framework of the Pine Marten Working Group and the Small Mustelid Working Group under the Dutch Mammal Society and receives financial support from nature management organisations like the Dutch Nature Monument Association (Natuurmonumenten) and the Dutch Forest Service.

Passing on knowledge on Mustelid research to conservation NGOs and authorities in Iran, 15 April 2012. By K. Cuyten.

Watch some videos

Badgers.  By E. van Maanen.