Pine Marten

Pine Marten

European pine marten, Pineten, Baum marten, Sweet marten

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Order
Suborder
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Martes martes
Population size
Unknown
Life Span
10-17 yrs
WEIGHT
0.9-2 kg
LENGTH
40-55 cm

The elusive Pine marten is native to Northern Europe and belongs to the mustelid family, other members of which are mink, otter, badger, weasel and wolverine. This animal has fur that is chestnut-brown to dark brown and a creamy-yellow bib. They are adept tree climbers, and their many physical adaptations include muscle and bone structure for powerful forelimbs, a long tail to help them balance, and well-developed claws.

Distibution

This species is distributed through most parts of continental Eurasia from Western Europe to western Siberia, and from the northern border of coniferous forest to Asia Minor. They also inhabit the Caucasus and many of the Mediterranean islands, including Corsica, Sardinia, Elba, Sicily and the Balearic Islands. Formerly common in Great Britain, now it is found just in Ireland and northern parts of mainland Britain. This animal prefers forest habitats, such as deciduous, coniferous and mixed forest. They are sometimes found outside of forests. They live in shrubland on the island of Minorca, and do not seem to mind whether there is tree cover or not. In Scotland, they are found in young forest plantations, heather and grass moorland, coarse grassland, and borders.

Pine Marten habitat map

Habits and Lifestyle

Pine martens are mostly active at night and during dusk. Their preferred nesting sites are hollow trees, and one individual has a few nests within its home range. Abandoned bird nests, squirrel nests, and rock crevices also are used. In the winter at colder ambient temperatures, martens choose more often to rest underground. These animals are solitary, apart from when there are young in the nest, male-female bonds being transitory. Estimates for home range size vary widely between studies. Male ranges are clearly larger than those of females and overlap with those of at least one female. Homes ranges for both genders, however, usually do not overlap. Communication occurs through scent-marking home ranges. Anal and abdominal scent glands are used for marking areas throughout their territory. In the nest, the young communicate with their mother by twittering.

Diet and Nutrition

Pine martens are omnivorous. They mainly eat rodents, birds, fruit and insects.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
July-August
PREGNANCY DURATION
8 months
BABY CARRYING
2-5 kits
INDEPENDENT AGE
6 weeks
BABY NAME
kit

Pine martens are polygynandrous (promiscuous), with both males and females mating with multiple partners. The mating period is July and August and the gestation period is for about 8 months, including a 7-month delayed implantation period. Litters consist of 2-5 young, which are blind, deaf and without teeth when born, but have thick, short fur. Their eyes open from 34-38 days. They begin eating solid food when 36-45 days old, weaning taking place about 6 weeks after birth. When they are 7-8 weeks old, the young pine martens emerge from the den, reaching sexual maturity when 12 to 18 months old.

Population

Population threats

Potential threats to the Pine marten include unsustainable trapping and hunting, incidental poisoning, and the fragmentation and loss of woodland habitats. This species is trapped and hunted in some portions of its range for its fur. Its decline in Britain was due to persecution for predating on livestock and, particularly, game. It is still persecuted in some countries where it is protected. The efforts to control other carnivores sometimes cause the death of Pine martens.

Population number

According to IUCN, Pine marten is common and widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. According to the British Wildlife Center resource, the total population size of the Pine marten in Britain in pre-breeding season is estimated to be 3,300 individuals. This includes only 120 martens in England, 60 martens in Wales and rest in Scotland. According to the IUCN Red List, the average annual spring number of pine martens in Russia was 187,000 individuals in 2011-2013. Currently this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) and its numbers today remain stable.

Ecological niche

Pine martens play an important role in their ecosystem: the seeds they eat as part of their varied diet are eventually dispersed throughout the forest by way of feces. In addition, their presence is often used as an indicator of conditions of environment as they are dependent on food found in mature coniferous forests, and do not reside in burned or clear-cut forest areas.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • A group of Pine martens is called a 'richness'.
  • These animals are skillful climbers, but they usually hunt on the ground.
  • Of the mustelids, the Pine marten is the only one with semi-retractable claws.
  • The Pine marten’s name comes from where it lives: mainly coniferous forests such as pine forests.
  • Pine martens are believed to have come to Britain around 10,500 BCE, the end of the last ice age. They live in woodland habitats and were Britain’s second most common carnivore around 6,500 years ago in Britain and Ireland.

References

1. Pine Marten Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_pine_marten
2. Pine Marten on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/12848/0

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