I'm sure you all have had enough Superb Owls - how about some mustelids for your Monday?

The Beech Marten (Martes foina) is a European/Asian relative of the Pine Marten. They are widespread throughout Europe, extending as far west as Spain and Portugal, found as far south as the Middle East and Central Asia, and the easternmost part of their range is in northwest China. They are much more abundant and adaptable than the Pine Marten because the Pine Marten has specialized in forest living, while the Beech Marten is a generalist and can thrive in a variety of habitats.

Beech Martens are also called stone martens or the white-breasted marten, because of the white patch on their chests. Its short legs mean that it creeps along the ground in spurts, rather than bounding like the Pine Marten and other mustelids with elongated bodies. Males are slightly larger than females, measuring 23 inches (59 cm) in body length. Females are about 19 inches (47 cm) in body length. The body mass of Beech Martens can fluctuate as much as 15% depending on the season. In summer, when food is plentiful, they'll weigh about 4.6 pounds (2.1 kg), while they'll drop down to 3.9 pounds (1.8 kg) in the winter.

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Beech Martens tend to follow crepuscular and nocturnal activity patterns, and they are both good swimmers and good climbers. Their diet is extremely varied, and tends toward vegetation in the winter and live prey in the summer. Live prey consists mostly of rodents and birds, with the occasional poached chicken. They will also scavenge carrion. The vegetarian options include fruit and berries, as well as black nightshade and mountain ash.

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The mating season of Beech Martens take place during the summer months of June and July, and actual pairing takes place at night, most often when the moon is full enough to provide a great deal of light. The pregnant females will delay implantation of the fertilized embryos to time the births in March and April, at which time they will give birth to three to seven kits. The females will nurse their kits for up to 45 days, and by July the kits will look fully grown.

A small population of Beech Martens has been introduced in North America, the result of escapees from fur farms meeting in the wild and doing what comes naturally. They can be found in Wisconsin, around Milwaukee and the Kettle Moraine State Forest. Beech Martens are considered to be a species of least concern by the IUCN because of their wide range and healthy populations.

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Source for all images used in this post.