The Pine Marten - happy in a remote forest


The Pine Marten - happy in a remote forest

Pine martens are members of the stoat and weasel family (mustelids), which inhabit forest in the remoter parts of Britain, notably in the Scottish Highlands.

They are slender, and a dark reddish brown in colour, with a creamy yellow throat bib, pointed face and long bushy tail that allows them to balance in trees. They are between 19-27 inches long; roughly the size of a domestic cat.

Mainly found in Scotland, particularly in the Highlands, and Ireland, the marten populations in North England and North Wales are fragmented and small. They are mainly active at night and dusk. Pine Martens usually make their own dens in hollow trees or scrub-covered fields.

Martens have small, rounded, highly sensitive ears and sharp teeth adapted for eating small mammals, birds, insects, frogs, and carrion. They are also known to eat berries, birds' eggs, nuts, and honey. They are territorial animals that mark their range by depositing feces (called scats) in prominent locations on forest trails or places like boulders. When they are fresh, scats may have a slimy appearance due to mucous binding them together. They may contain fur, feathers, bones or seeds.

For many years the species was only to commonly be found in northwestern Scotland. But in recent years they have spread from their Scottish Highlands stronghold, north into Sutherland and Caithness and southeastwards from the Great Glen into Moray, Aberdeenshire, Perthshire, Tayside, and Stirlingshire, with some on the Kintyre and Cowal peninsulas and on Skye and Mull.

In England, pine martens are extremely rare, and long considered probably extinct, although there has been some evidence found at Kidland Forest in Northumberland and in Cumbria, and even in Shropshire. There is a small population in Wales.

The species is not regarded as threatened.

Further reading

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