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European pine marten

Related subjects: Mammals

Background Information

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Pine Marten
Conservation status

Least Concern
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Mustelidae
Genus: Martes
Species: M. martes
Binomial name
Martes martes
(Linnaeus, 1758)
Pine Martin range

The Pine Marten (Martes martes) is an animal in the weasel family, native to Northern Europe. It is about the size of a domestic cat. Its body is up to 53 cm in length, its bushy tail can be 25 cm. Males are slightly larger than females; on average a marten weighs around one and a half kilograms. 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. Pine 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, and honey. Pine Martens are territorial animals, they mark their range by depositing faeces in prominent locations.


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 gamekeepers, human disturbance, illegal poisoning and shooting have caused a considerable decline in the Pine Marten's population. In the United Kingdom, Pine Martens and their dens are offered full protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) and the Environmental Protection Act.

Recently (December, 2007) the Pine Marten was credited with reducing the population of the invasive Eastern Gray Squirrel in the UK. Where the range of the expanding Pine Marten population meets that of the Gray Squirrel, the population of the squirrels quickly retreats. It is theorized that because the Gray Squirrel spends more time on the ground than the endangered Red Squirrel, they are far more apt 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 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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