Pine Marten

The pine marten is a carnivorous, arboreal (tree-living) member of the weasel family. It was once widespread in Britain but now it is rare. 


Pine Marten © Alastair Rae CC BY-SA 2.0Order: Carnivora

Family: Mustelidae

Species: Martes martes

IUCN Status: Least Concern

Population Trend: stable

Distribution: in the British Isles, the pine marten is mainly confined to remote areas of Scotland, Wales, the Lake District and Irish Republic. Also found in rest of Europe, except southern Spain, Portugal and the Balkan peninsula.

Habitat: woodland, mainly coniferous but found in mixed woodland too. Sometimes lives on rocky moorland and hillsides.

Description: cat-size and slender with long, dark, chestnut-brown fur and a bushy tail; has a distinctive creamy-yellow throat.

Size: male measures, on average, 68cm from nose to tip of tail. Female is slightly smaller.

Life-span: may reach 10 years or more in the wild. Food: mainly small birds and mammals, including squirrels, voles, tits and wrens. Also eats beetles, caterpillars, birds' eggs, berries and carrion (dead animals).

The pine marten is a carnivorous, arboreal (tree-living) member of the weasel family. It was once widespread in Britain but now it is rare. Human interference has caused a serious decline in marten numbers over the past 200 years, although there are now signs that the population may be increasing in certain areas.

Pine Marten Habits

PIne MartenDaily Life  The pine marten is mainly nocturnal, hunting through the night and especially at dusk. It usually hunts alone. A very agile predator, it can climb trees easily, grasping the trunk firmly, digging in its claws and bounding upwards with jerky movements. The marten is one of the few predators agile enough to catch a squirrel. If it falls, its supple body twists to land safely on all four feet from as high as 20 metres! Martens, however, obtain most of their food on the ground, and they hunt for small mammals, birds, insects, berries, birds' eggs and carrion.

Martens are rarely seen in daylight; they sleep in dens hidden in a crevice among rocks or in hollows under tree roots.

Winter  Pine martens are active throughout the winter. Those that normally live high in the hills move to lower ground during the colder months. The soles of their feet are covered in thick fur which probably helps them to move across snow-covered ground.


Protection for Pine Martens

Pine Martens are found throughout Scotland in good numbers, particularly in northern and central Scotland, but they are only present in very low numbers in small areas of northern England and Wales. It is difficult for them to recolonise areas in England from which they have completely disappeared, these being isolated from the remaining populations. In 2020, the first pine martens to be reintroduced to England have had kits, marking a milestone in efforts to boost their recovery.

It has been suggested that humans could help by releasing captive-bred animals into suitable forests; this is already being carried out with other British mammals such as the otter and dormouse.


Image: Pine Marten by SolidElectronics

Information sourced from:

Vincent Wildlife Pine Marten Recovery Project (2015), The Pine Marten [online] Available from: www.pine-marten-recovery-project.org.uk/our-work/faqs [accessed 12/07/2015]


Pine martens breed only once a year, mating in July or August; the female's pregnancy does not begin until January. This is called 'delayed implantation' and occurs in other mammals too, including the badger. A litter of about 3 babies is born in late March or April, often in a nest previously lived in by a crow, magpie or squirrel. At birth, the young are blind and are covered in a thin coat of yellowish-white hair which changes to grey and then to brown as they mature. The babies spend at least six weeks in the den before they venture out and the family stays together until they are six months old.

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