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Monday Mustelid - Martes martes Edition

Happy New Year, ODeck! Time for your regularly-scheduled animals! Just FYI, I started the Monday Mustelid series at the beginning of December 2014, and I will be finishing up the series in the spring. We’ve still got some good ones to cover!

The Pine Marten (Martes martes) can be found from western Europe to western Siberia, and is also known as the European Pine Marten. In the United Kingdom, the distribution of the Pine Marten is mainly restricted to Scotland and northern parts of England. Scattered populations can also be found on other European islands, although whether the Pine Martens established themselves on those islands or their presence was due to human intervention is not well known. Other names for the Pine Marten include the baum marten, sweet marten and pineten.


The Pine Marten is often compared to domestic cats, size-wise, although cats will generally outweigh Pine Martens. Adults grow up to 21 inches (53 cm), with a tail up to 10 inches (25 cm) long. Males are slightly larger than females, and the average Pine Marten weighs approximately 3 pounds (1.5 kg). Their coats are usually a shade of brown, with a pale “bib” under the chin that is often amber-colored. Their coats grow longer and fluffier during the winter to help protect them against the cold. Pine Martens are unique among mustelids in that their claws are semi-retractable.

The diet of the Pine Marten varies by range, but often includes a variety of small mammals like rodents, as well as frogs, fish, birds and their eggs, and insects. They will also scavenge carrion and consume berries, nuts and honey. Pine Martens are excellent climbers and do spend a lot of time in trees, but most of their hunting takes place on the ground. They are active starting at dusk and during the night, and they are fairly territorial. Pine Martens mark their territories with feces and scent secreted from their anal glands.


Mating season for Pine Martens takes place during the late summer, in July and August, and like other mustelids females will delay implantation of fertilized embryos for about seven months, timing the births to occur in March and April. Litters consist of one to five kits, with an average of three. Kits are helpless for the first 35 days or so of their lives, after which their eyes open and they start to eat solid food. They begin to leave their mother when they are three to four months old, though they may linger in her territory until the next spring.


The Pine Marten is considered to be a species of least concern by the IUCN, but it has declined in numbers and is not present in some parts of its historical range due to fur hunting and “pest control.” They have been known to steal chickens and they can be killed by poison left out for foxes and crows. Their habitat, which usually consists of wooded areas and forests, is crucial to its continued stability as a species.


Source for all images in this post.

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