Pine Marten in Captivity - WWC Archives

The Pine Marten (Martes martes), is an animal native to Northern Europe. It is about the size of a domestic cat.

Its body is up to 53 cm in length (21 inches), and its bushy tail can be 25 cm (10 inches). Males are slightly larger than females; on average a marten weighs around 1.5 kg (3.5 lb). Their fur is usually light to dark brown and grows longer and silkier during the winter months. They have a cream to yellow colored "bib" marking on their throats.


Their habitats are usually well-wooded areas. Martens usually make their own dens in hollow trees or scrub-covered fields. Martens are the only mustelids with semi-retractable claws. This enables them to lead more arboreal lifestyles, such as climbing or running on tree branches, although they are also relatively quick runners on the ground. They are mainly active at night and dusk. They have small rounded, highly sensitive ears and sharp teeth for eating small mammals, birds, insects, frogs, and carrion. They have also been known to eat berries, bird's eggs, meat, nuts and honey. Martens are territorial animals, they mark their range by depositing feces in prominent locations.

Martens have been known to chew rubber and soft plastic parts (windshield wiper, garden hoses, e.g.) often those of parked cars, ostensibly to sharpen/clean their teeth, though the exact drive for this behavior is not known, and they do not actually ingest the rubber; damage to brake cables is a particular hazard. In rural areas it is not uncommon for wire fencing (chicken wire) to be placed on the ground under parked cars (Martens avoid stepping on it) or dog musk or other natural repellents to be sprayed under cars.

Threats to the speciesEdit

Although they are preyed upon occasionally by golden eagles and even more rarely by red foxes, humans are the largest threat to Pine Martens. Martens are prized for their very fine fur, and loss of habitat leading to fragmentation, persecution by Victorian gamekeepers, human disturbance, illegal poisoning and shooting caused a considerable decline in the European Pine Marten's population and they were on the verge of extinction in the early 1900s. In the United Kingdom, European Pine Martens and their dens are offered full protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) and the Environmental Protection Act.

Pine Martens have made a recovery in parts of Scotland. In the early 1900s, they were confined to parts of Wales, northern England and the Scottish Highlands. Today, Pine Martens are found across much of northern Scotland, and were reintroduced to Glen Trool in the early 1980s. In England and Wales, populations appear to have not recovered, and were considered by some to be extinct in these areas, but sightings in these areas suggest that pine martens do exist there, but in such low numbers that few people ever see them. The Pine Marten's elusive nature also makes monitoring difficult.

As predatorEdit

Recently (December, 2007) the Pine Marten was credited with reducing the population of the invasive Grey Squirrel in the UK. Where the range of the expanding Pine Marten population meets that of the Grey Squirrel, the population of the squirrels quickly retreats. It is theorised that because the Grey Squirrel spends more time on the ground than the Red Squirrel, they are far more likely to come in contact with this predator.


The Pine Marten has lived to 18 years in captivity, but in the wild a lifespan of eight to ten years is more typical. They reach sexual maturity at two or three years of age. The young are usually born in March or April after a 7 month-long gestation period in litters of one to five. Young Pine Martens weigh around 30 grams at birth. The young begin to emerge out of their dens by the middle of June and are fully independent around six months after their birth.


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