A pine marten has been photographed in the woods of southwest Shropshire for the first time since the animal was declared extinct in the UK in the 1990s. A century after it was last seen, an amateur photographer by the name of Dave Pearce spotted the carnivorous animal, which he himself did not believe at first.

The wildlife lover and mechanic realized that it was, in fact, the animal after a few seconds of viewing it, so he immediately grabbed a camera and documented the sighting. Pearce felt privileged to have encountered the animal since he may no longer get to see another one again in the future.

Many scientists have been clamoring to take the photo Pearce snapped, as numerous incidents of misidentification have been noted in the past five years.

When Stuart Edmunds, from the Shropshire Wildlife Trust first obtained the photos, he admitted that he was not too keen on looking at them as he had more pressing things to deal with. However, when he finally got to sit down and look at the photos, he was shocked and could not believe it.

"I actually thought it might have been a taxidermied pine marten dragged through the woods," he said.

Although many experts expressed their doubts over the reliability of the photos, Edmunds is fully convinced that it was accurate. According to him, Pearce's images looked genuine. The said carnivore also came from the Welsh border to the Clun Valley.

Many misidentified photos in the past were said to be released from the zoo. The animal seen by Pearce may be a genuine pine marten, but there is a possibility that it was not a species born in the wild, says Robbie McDonald, a professor from Exeter University.

The pine marten belongs to the family of stoats and weasels. The animal is about the size of a house cat and is said to exist in good number in Scotland. With this, the one spotted by Pearce may have settled over the Wales border, where they are located around Snowdonia.

Pine martens are nocturnal and stay in trees during the day, adding to their elusiveness. With their long bushy tails, dark fur and white bib, they are almost always mistaken for a stoat or a fox.

Photo: Peter G W Jones | Flickr

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