Pine Martens in the Forest

Pine Martens in the Forest

Published January 8, 2024

Pine martens are notoriously difficult to spot, which is why we were delighted to capture this image of one on our Dumyat site in central Scotland over Christmas! 

We set up a camera beside an animal trail near the main pond on the site for almost a month, and fully expected to get roe deer, badger and fox. However, to our surprise, we caught a few photos of a pine marten one night! This is only the second record for the species at Dumyat, the previous one being in 2015. Pine martens can be seen more frequently in the general area, so to see one here on Dumyat is great news.

Cute but fierce

The pine marten has a very cute, cuddly look, but this omnivore is a skilled hunter with powerful teeth and claws. They are elusive creatures, shy and mostly nocturnal. They are often known to be present in an area through the spotting of footprints or droppings, rather than actual sightings. 

Once common throughout the UK, the pine marten population went through a dramatic decline in the 1800s due to loss of habitat and persecution by humans. The species was on the brink of extinction until it was awarded protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. Pines martens are classified as a Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, and their numbers are slowly recovering.

Identifying pine martens

Pine martens are a lovely warm shade of brown with a distinctive creamy yellow ‘bib’ covering their chin and throat. They also have a long bushy tail that helps them balance. They are in the mustelid family, along with weasels, ferrets and polecats. However, weighing in at about 1-2kg and measuring 60-70cm, they are larger than many of these relations. 

Pine martens can be found in northern and central Scotland. However, some populations have been recorded in southern Scotland and, in lower numbers, down into northern England and Wales. 

Up in the trees

Pine martens are agile, skilled climbers, and as their name suggests, they like to live in woodlands. Often they will settle down in an old bird’s nest or squirrel drey rather than building their own home. They also like to live in hollows in trees, or in the fallen root masses of Scots pines, which is probably where their name came from.

Their diet is made up of small rodents and birds, carrion, fungi, and eggs if they can get their paws on them. They also enjoy berries and in the summer, bilberries can make up around 30% of their diet.

Pine marten in a tree

Good news for red squirrels

Studies have suggested that pine martens could be playing a very important part of a healthy ecosystem by preying on grey squirrels. Grey squirrels are vulnerable to pine martens as they are larger, slower and spend more time on the ground than the red squirrel. This is fantastic news for protecting endangered red squirrel populations, such as the one we have on our Dumyat site. 

Fingers crossed for more sightings of the beautiful pine marten!

Restore nature and protect vital ecosystems

You can help protect pine martens and other important little creatures by restoring nature and safeguarding vital habitats. Learn more about our nature restoration sponsorship.

Dumyat trees

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