This week’s Animal Profile looks again to the Scottish Highlands and in particular at Pine martens – cute to look at, yes, but a formidable little creature!
Binomial name: Martes martes
Current conservation status: Least concern.
- Pine martens are widely distributed and noted to be reasonably resilient to habitat modification. Unfortunately, their rather unfairly negative reputation makes them subject to scrutiny so they still need promoting!
Population trend: Stable.
- The most recent counts estimate Pine marten numbers to be around 187,000 spread across Europe.
Habitat: Coniferous forests. Deciduous woods, mixed forest and scrub.
- Pine martens are pretty resilient in the face of change, and have adapted to live in a ranger of habitats.
Threats: Habitat loss, poisoning, hunting.
- Unsustainable hunting and trapping
- Habitat loss and fragmentation.
Role: Grey squirrel population control. Tree health.
- Pine martens are a friend to red squirrels, helping to allow population growth by hunting their larger predatory relative the grey squirrel, amongst other rodents
- In preying on grey squirrels, pine martens also help prevent tree bark from being stripped by grey squirrels.
Support needed: Research in population size, distribution and trends. Habitat protection. Compliance and enforcement.
- Constant monitoring of pine marten populations and distribution is required to keep track of the health of the species, and to ensure that conservation efforts are effective
- Alladale Wilderness Reserve is home to the oldest, most northerly Caledonian pine forest. By planting more trees, the area has become more habitable for pine martens
- Laws around the protection of pine martens need to be enforced to support sustainable population growth.
Facts about red squirrels:
- Pine martens can live for up to 12 years
- They live in dens. These are often located in roof spaces above buildings
- They eat mainly voles and mice, but also rabbits, small birds, birds’ eggs, berries and insects
- Squirrels are preyed upon by foxes and golden eagles mainly
- Most of the Pine marten population is found in Scotland, with fewer than 100 in England and Wales.