Mystery guest Marten having a rare old time with rescue couple
A couple are nursing one of one of the country's rarest wild animals back to health.
Jason Searle (38) and his fiancee Nyree Hogan were driving near their home in Co Westmeath when they spotted what he assumed was a tiny stoat at the side of the road.
What they had just stumbled across, however, was a pine marten.
"I got out of the car and walked over to it," said Mr Searle, from Cushintown, Killucan. "It was trying to climb into the hedge but it was struggling.
"It was shaking and very lethargic. I wrapped it in a t-shirt so it'd be in darkness and drove home.
"I wasn't really afraid that it was going to bite, I could tell it was in pain and in shock."
Jason wrapped up his mystery guest and left it indoors for the night.
The next day after trawling the internet he discovered he had taken on one of Ireland's shyest species.
"I had found the number of Dan Donoher (an animal rehabilitator) in Kildare and I sent him the photographs," the father of two said.
"He rang me back and was very excited, and said, 'I think you have a pine marten, they are very rare and endangered'."
Since then, the pine marten has been tucking into a diet of raw eggs and water instead of its typical fare of rats, mice, rabbits and squirrels.
The painter and decorator plans to keep the animal until August when it will be ready to be released back into his natural habitat.
Jason has, of course, called the animal Marten. It is about two months old.
The pine marten grows to roughly the same size as a cat but has short front legs and a long, bushy tail. It has a rich brown coat and a distinctive creamy-white patch, extending from the throat to the front legs.
There is no definitive record of the number of pine martens here.
Emma Higgs, founder of the Irish Wildlife Matters website, says: "The pine marten is one of the rarest mammals here -- it is brilliant that Jason found one."