Taxonomic status

Scientific name

Martes martes

Common name

European pine marten

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Species information

Physical characteristics

The Pine marten is about the size of a house cat. Its body is up to 53 cm in length, and its bushy tail can be 25 cm. Males are slightly larger than females, on average a marten weighs around 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.

Habitat, behaviour, food and reproduction

It inhabits deciduous, mixed, and coniferous woodlands, as well as scrub. Optimal habitat appears to be woodlands with an incomplete canopy and dense understory vegetation. Pine martens have a predominantly carnivorous diet, consuming voles, mice, squirrels, rabbits, birds, and amphibians. Carrion is a major food source in the winter. Bee nests, mushrooms, and berries are also sometimes eaten.

Solitary, but not highly territorial, the home ranges of this species very often overlap partially or even totally. Females may mate with several males while on heat. There is delayed implantation 165-210 days. Animals in the eastern parts of distribution area (Ural Mountains) can hybridize with sympatrically distributed sable Martes zibellina.

The European Pine marten has lived to 18 years in captivity, but in the wild a lifespan of eight to ten years is more typical.

Population size and trends

In the more northern and eastern parts of its range it remains widespread, and it is fairly abundant owing to its large range. Population declines and range contractions occurred in many parts of its distribution, yet it was difficult to quantify these population declines because historical data were lacking for many range states. Russia constitutes a large part of the species' range.

The Pine marten has also declined in the Netherlands, thanks to the development of ecological corridors and nature development the Pine marten is locally increasing again. It has become extinct in many parts of the British Isles where it formerly occurred. In northern and central Europe, this species declined from the 1950s to the 1980s, but has since stabilized and is now regionally increasing due to implementation of hunting controls.

Since 1990, in the Russian Federation the population has been increasing again in forested areas; in 1999 the number was estimated as 170,000. In the United Kingdom the range is extending southwards again, but population numbers are lacking.

It is native in the following countries:

Albania; Austria; Belarus; Belgium; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Bulgaria; Croatia; Czech Republic; Denmark; Estonia; Finland; France; Georgia; Germany; Greece; Hungary; Islamic Republic of Iran; Ireland; Italy; Latvia; Liechtenstein; Lithuania; Luxembourg; the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; Moldova; Montenegro; Netherlands; Norway; Poland; Portugal; Romania; Russian Federation; Serbia; Slovakia; Slovenia; Spain (Baleares - Introduced); Sweden; Switzerland; Turkey; Ukraine; United Kingdom. 

With 170,000 animals in Russia alone, the species is considered stable globally.

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Distribution: maps, historical and current

Countries

Further map information

Historical distribution

The Pine marten has become extinct in many parts of the British Isles where it formerly occurred.

Current distribution

The Pine marten has a wide distribution in the Palaearctic, being found throughout most of Europe, Asia Minor, northern Iraq and Iran, the Caucasus, and in westernmost parts of Asian Russia (Western Siberia). It is widespread in continental Europe, with the exception of most of Iberia and Greece, and parts of Belgium and the Netherlands. It is found on the Mediterranean islands of Corsica, Sardinia, and Sicily. It was introduced historically to the Balearics.

It was formerly widespread in the British Isles, but is now restricted to northern Britain and Ireland, where it is still common. Altitude ranges from sea-level to the timber line (2,300 m in the Pyrenees).

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Threats

Major threats to the Pine marten include unsustainable hunting and trapping, incidental poisoning, and the loss and fragmentation of woodland habitats. The marten is still hunted and trapped for its fur in some parts of its range. Its decline in Britain was due to persecution, and the species is still subject to persecution even in some countries in which it is protected. Efforts to control other carnivore species sometimes result in Pine marten deaths.

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Conservation information

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Experts and scientific referees

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All comments on European pine marten (Martes martes)

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