Cute, smart and mischievous like a weasel, the Beech marten is native to much of Central Asia and Europe, although there is a feral population within North America. These martens range in color from pale grayish brown to dark brown. A buffy or white streak can be seen below the chin, reaching from the animal’s neck to its chest. In some eastern and southern regions the white streak is absent. The young have gray fur on their backs. The Beech marten is about the same size as a domestic cat, but has a more slender body.
The Beech marten is found in much of central Asia and Europe, as far to the north as Denmark, in the west to Spain, southwards into Italy, and the islands of Corfu, Crete, and Rhodes, and east to the Himalayas and Mongolia. A population has also been established in Wisconsin in the United States, due to the pet trade. These animals prefer rock croppings and open deciduous forest in mountainous habitats, preferring open landscapes, as they are less dependent on forested areas than other martens. They are often found living close by human habitation, and may den in buildings.
Beech martens mostly live a solitary life, except for family groups (mothers and their young) and mating pairs. They are nocturnal, but during the mating season can often be seen in the daytime. They are territorial and keep away from others of their species. An average home range measures 12 to 211 ha, the size varying with the season, with larger ranges during summer compared to in the winter. Males have much larger ranges than females. This species communicates primarily through olfactory cues. Reproductive readiness and territorial boundaries are communicated through scent marking, and during the breeding season their cries can be heard. Their gait varies with the speed they are traveling: if strolling, it is a meandering gait with parallel front feet while the hind feet are on a slight angle in relation to the front. When it runs, its hind feet land on the same spot as its front feet. When prowling, Beech martens will surprise prey animals by pouncing on them. Being excellent climbers, they are able to access birds’ nests.
Beech martens are polygynandrous (promiscuous), with both males and females mating with multiple partners. Mating occurs from June to August (during midsummer) and gestation period lasts 7.5 - 9 months, including delayed implantation of 6.5 - 8 months. A litter numbers 2 - 4 kits, which are cared for exclusively by their mother, being nursed and looked after in the den. They are born naked, with their eyes and ears closed. Young are weaned when they are 2 months old and are independent at a year old. At 15 - 27 months old they reach reproductive maturity.
Beech martens are sometimes persecuted for being a pest. They are also hunted for their fur in India, Russia and other countries. There is, however, no evidence of these threats being intensive enough to cause significant declines across the species' range.
According to IUCN, the Beech marten is common and widely distributed across its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently this species is classified as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today remain stable.
Beech martens help control the pest populations of mice and rats in central Europe and are prey for foxes, wildcats and owls. In forested regions they may contribute to the dispersal of seeds, and are regarded as important for the dispersal of fleshy-fruited plants in Central Europe’s forests.