Ireland's Mammals - The Pine Marten
The European Pine Marten (Martes martes) is one of Ireland’s rarest wild animals. It is normally sighted in the south and west of Ireland, but is hard to find due to being a shy creature. It is an animal native to Northern Europe, and is less commonly known as the Pineten, baum marten or sweet marten. The Pine Marten belongs to the mustelid family, which also includes mink, otter, badger, wolverine and weasel. Its body size is roughly that of a domestic cat at approximately 53cm, and an additional bushy tail can be up to 25cm in length. An average pine marten weighs 1.5kg, and males are slightly larger than females. Their fur is generally light to dark brown, growing longer and silkier during the winter months. On their throats they have a distinctive cream marking called a “bib”.
Martens usually construct their own dens in hollow trees in dense woodland. They are the only mustelids to have semi retractable claws, enabling them to lead arboreal lifestyles of climbing trees. They are known to be very quick runners on ground as well as in trees. They are mainly only active at dusk and through the night, and eat small mammals, birds, insects, frogs and occasionally carrion. They have also been seen to eat berries, bird’s eggs, nuts and honey. To locate their meals they have small, rounded, highly sensitive
Pine Martens are protected under the Wildlife Act of 1976. Even though they are preyed upon by red foxes and occasionally golden eagles, the greatest threat to them as a species is humans. A significant decline has been seen in Pine Martin population across Europe due to humans. Their fur is prized, loss of habitat is leading to fragmentation, persecution by gamekeepers, human disturbance to their natural habitat, illegal poisoning and shooting have contributed greatly to this drop in population.
This article was contributed by Junior Frog Blog Reporter Emma Moore.