The pine marten (Martes martes) is an animal in the weasel family, native to Northern Europe. It’s around the size of a domestic cat. Its body is up to 20.87 in (53 cm) long; its bushy tail can be 9.84 in (25 cm). Males are slightly larger than females. On average a marten weighs 3.3 lb (1.5 kg). 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 habitat is 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. 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 used 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 feces in prominent locations.
They are preyed upon occasionally by golden eagles and even more rarely by red foxes; humans are their most formidable adversaries. Martens are prized for their very fine fur, and loss of habitat leading to fragmentation. The persecution by gamekeepers, human disturbance, illegal poisoning and shooting have declined the pine marten population considerably. Pine martens and their dens are offered full protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981 and the Environmental Protection Act, 1990.
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 pregnancy period in litters of one to five. The young begin to emerge out of their dens by the middle of June and are fully independent around six months after their birth.