DNA samples from elusive pine martens are being collected as part of a study in the New Forest.

The rare mammals are now known to be present across the area after an absence of decades. 

Researchers are collecting genetic material in order to establish the health of the population of the creatures, a cat-sized member of the weasel family.

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An in-depth, three year study determined how pine martens were recolonising the area.

Marcus Ward of Wild New Forest said the latest phase, collecting hair samples using pipes lined with velcro, would provide a further insight into the creatures and their habits.

"The main thing we are looking at is the genetic diversity of the population and how healthy the population is," he said.

"By getting DNA, it unlocks other bits of information which is useful and helps us piece together our understanding of pine martens in the New Forest."

The creatures make dens high up in the trees and usually only come out at night to hunt.