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A year long conservation project has accidentally discovered that one of Scotland’s rarest predators has moved into the Falkirk area.

Pine Marten, which are a small cat sized member of the Mustelid family which includes mink, otter and badger, was not thought to be present in the Falkirk Council area until a project led by Falkirk Council and local volunteers has captured video footage of the elusive animal at three sites.

Community Green Initiative (CGI) based in Denny and Dunipace has been working with Falkirk Council Ranger Service to undertake a wildlife survey using a number of video cameras to capture and record a wide range of wildlife activity throughout the year. The group received support from Falkirk Environmental Trust.

The full extent of the population of Pine Martens is not yet known but further investigations will take place in the next year. Sightings have already been recorded in North Lanarkshire and Stirling.

Falkirk Council Outdoor Ranger Fiona Wishart said: “We helped CGI with identifying particular locations based on what we knew about the preferred habitat of Pine Martens and their hard work over the year has really paid off.”

“It shows that the Falkirk area is great for wildlife and our countryside is now attracting lots of interesting and rare species like Pine Marten.

Rachel McNeil, volunteer at CGI said: "The project was brilliant fun, and a good excuse to get outdoors and see the local nature surrounding us that we all take for granted too often. Loading up your newly taken photos to find that you’d captured a jay or pine marten, even a fox, is such an exciting discovery."

The original project set out to examine the extent of Red Squirrels in the area however none were found.

Pine Martens were hunted to near extinction by the 1800s across Scotland but increased woodland cover and protection by the law means that their numbers are now increasing. They have few natural predators but are an efficient predator themselves hunting everything from birds to voles, mice and grey squirrel. They will also eat berries and insects.