Pine Marten Facts (Martes Martes)
Pine Marten – History
Pine Martens (Martes martes) – Once common throughout the UK. The species suffered serious decline, particularly during the 19th century, largely as the results of de-forestation and persecution.
By the turn of the 20th century, the population had dwindled dramatically to isolated pockets in the North West Scotland.
The Pine Marten was given full legal protection in 1988 and is listed under schedule 5 of the wildlife and countryside act 1981.
Since then the UK population has expanded from the north west of Scotland spreading east and south as far as Argyle & Bute and parts of Perth and Kinross. Following re-introduction there is also a small population in the Galloway Forrest. They can also be found in areas of Ireland.
What is a Pine Marten?
It is a medium sized mammal belonging to the Weasel or mustelid family. Pine Martens have a long slender body about 70 cm long and are about the size of a cat.
Pine Marten Diet:
Although carnivorous they have a varied and seasonal diet and will eat small mammals, particularly voles, small birds, berries and insects.
Pine Marten Habitat:
The Pine Martens preferred habitat is mixed or native woodland. They can survive in a range of environments including conifer plantations or rocky and open landscape. Pine Martens, particularly males or dogs, can have large territories depending on the quality of woodland within their range.
Where to see Pine Martens:
Being largely nocturnal and secretive they are not easy to see. They often hunt at night but can be seen in daylight particularly early morning and late evening during long summer nights.
The question should probably be how to see Pine Martens?
Pine Martens tend to keep a low profile and are not highly visible even in stronghold areas. So unless you have endless time to spare, your best chance of seeing one would be to identify a location where they are known to visit frequently. These tend to be areas where Pine Martens have become accustomed to receiving food either intentionally, or at bird and squirrel feeders.
The best types of locations are probably commercial wildlife hides or accommodation (guest houses or self catering) which form part of a Pine Martens territory.
There are two well know hides in Scotland which offer visitors the opportunity to see Pine Martens. One of these offers regular evening group visits to a hide, but sightings are not guaranteed.
The accommodation route may offer a good opportunity to see a Pine Marten up close, allowing you to remain on location for an extended time as site visits can be irregular. There are a growing number of proprietors in Scotland offering accommodation claimed to be frequently visited by Pine Martens. Some of them are well used to answering the question “how often do the Pine Martens visit”, so if you are serious give them a call and look for reports from previous guests.
Further Pine Marten facts and information
Scottish National Heritage – http://www.snh.gov.uk/about-scotlands-nature/species/mammals/land-mammals/pine-martens/Scottish
Scottish National Heritage Field Study – http://www.snh.org.uk/pdfs/publications/research/48.pdf
Vincent Wildlife Trust – http://www.vwt.org.uk/species/pine-marten