Marten guide: how to identify and where to see it in Britain (2023)

What is a pine ferret?

the marten (martes martes) has a long, slender body, round ears, chocolate brown fur, and a creamy white neck. It is a member of the Mustelidae family, along with weasels, weasels, badgers, otters, minks, and many others. The name comes from the mammal's choice of habitat, as it lives mainly among coniferous forests, such as pine forests. It weighs between 0.9 and 2.2 kg and has a lifespan of up to 12 years.


How rare are pine trees and what are the chances of seeing one? Our guide to pine ferrets breaks down facts about the species, including what they eat, how often they breed, and your best chance of seeing one.

Do pine ferrets hibernate?

Unlike many mammals, pine ferrets do not hibernate because their thick fur allows them to stay warm. Their feet are also covered in fur which allows them to survive in snowy conditions.

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What do pine ferrets eat?

Pine ferrets feed on fruits, fungi, insects, small rodents -such as boas- and bird eggs. Most of the food is found on the ground, despite being strong climbers.

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Pine Marten Facts

  • FamilyMustelids (such as porcupines, weasels, otters, and even badgers)
  • MaatSimilar to a cat, but lighter, weighing approximately 1.5 kg. Males are 51-54 cm long. females 46-54 cm.
  • ColorDark brown with cream collar and bib.
  • GroundAbout 10 km² but can overlap.
  • eating patternOmnivore, with a predilection for rodents, rabbits, birds and berries.
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Where do pine ferrets live?

As its name suggests, the marten lives mainly in coniferous forests, such as pine forests, although it spends time in scrub and rocky areas.

Populations are largely confined to northern and central Scotland, along with a few small pockets in southern Scotland, northern England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

How Often Do Pine Ferrets Breed?

Female pines tend to give birth in early spring. After burrowing in hollow trees, fallen logs, or sheltered rocks, ferrets give birth to one to five blind, hairless young.

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Are pine ferrets endangered?

Despite being listed as a 'least concern' species, the marten is rare in Britain (there are only an estimated 3,500) and is a priority species inUK Biodiversity Action Plan.

Pine ferrets are believed to have arrived in Britain at the end of the last Ice Age. They thrive in wooded habitats and were the second most abundant carnivore in Britain and Ireland around 6,500 years ago.

In the 19th century, Pine Ferrets were hunted for their fur and this, combined with predator control by game wardens and habitat fragmentation, brought them to the brink of extinction in many parts of the UK. Only small populations survived in remote areas of northern England, Wales and Ireland. The Scottish Highlands are the only area where their population is still strong.

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Golden eagles and red foxes may hunt and kill the marten for food or to eliminate it as a competitor, but humans are the main enemy of this feline creature and activities such as habitat fragmentation and trapping are far more damaging to a population. which is already shrinking. .

What does the future hold for pine ferrets?

In accordance withLaw of Nature and Landscape of 1981, the marten is protected from many human activities. It is illegal to kill, injure or take Scots pines, destroy their shelters or sell them, without permission, intentionally or recklessly. Despite these protection measures for the pine, other animals, such as foxes, kill large numbers of them.

Despite these bleak times for the marten, there is also some positive news. HeMarten Recovery Project, launched in 2015, was the first transport of ferrets from Scotland to Wales. And in July of the same year, one was seenand Schropshire, an area where the animal is believed to have died a century ago (experts believe it traveled across the Welsh border to Shropshire).

Pine ferrets are very territorial: males can roam over an area of ​​up to 25 square kilometers. Younger, smaller pine ferrets are often out of competition and must travel to find new territories. They can easily travel up to 12 miles a day, so it is likely that as ferret numbers increase they will gradually travel to other parts of Britain. It has been a difficult two centuries, but the future looks bright for the marten.

Are pine trees aggressive?

An elusive creature to track, pine ferrets are aggressive predators, emitting a buzz or growl to defend themselves. Gray squirrels and other small mammals are hunted and eaten by pine ferrets.

What time of day is the best time to see pine ferrets?

Pine ferrets are notoriously difficult to spot. Most of them are nocturnal, but they can be seen in the first and last hours of the day, especially in summer, when they are most active.

You may not see one in real life, but spotting its signs can be just as rewarding: look for lost tracks, tracks, and fur in the undergrowth.

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Best Places to See Pine Ferrets in the UK

You are very, very lucky to see a pine marten, as they are notoriously elusive, but here are some places known for marten activity:

Also, more recently pine ferrets have been reintroduced to Wales and Wales.Forest of Dean.

Are pine ferrets good for red squirrels?

Pine ferrets can be of great help to other species that are struggling to survive and act as another predator further up the food chain. Red squirrel numbers are increasing in Northern Ireland and experts believe we owe this trend to the marten. Gray squirrels have outnumbered their red relatives for decades, but with more gray squirrels being eaten by the marten, the red population is improving.

Our guide to Britain's red squirrel population

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Case Study: How Pine Ferrets Help Red Squirrels

Red squirrels are native to Great Britain, but there are only an estimated 140,000 red squirrels left, compared to 2.5 million gray squirrels. Can pine ferrets change that? Countryfile presenter Tom Heap investigates how reviving the marten could save the red squirrel from extinction...

I've long had a contender for my favorite place on earth, and a recent arrival seals the deal. It's a rugged strip of woodland below a small cliff on a Scottish island where oak trees share the ground with huge boulders and the sky with wild westerly winds. The result is a moist, damp tangle of bark, moss, and basalt. It was a place already endowed with an apparent mystery, now accentuated by rumors of the presence of the fir tree. An animal with, according to my Encyclopedia Britannica, a 'bloody character'.

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This non-digital source of information was published in 1929 when pine ferrets were nearly extinct in Britain. They colonized these islands after the ice age, first being hunted for their fur and then exterminated to protect game birds and chickens. But at the last minute, the law and the landscape came to their aid: the Wild Life and Country Act (1981) made their hunting illegal, and forestry spread throughout Photos: Our Highlands., Alamy After their recent resettlement to Scotland, they are now believed to number around 3,000 to 4,000.

And evidence is emerging that its resurgence could be very good news for one of our most embattled wild mammals: the red squirrel. It turns out that the marten is a great hunter of the red nemesis: the gray squirrel. But first I want to see one. Although it has "pine" in its name, it is just as happy in deciduous forests and I find my first sight resting on fallen oak leaves. Chestnut, slightly hairy, and about a finger long: Pine tree that falls, or "dung" in the trade.

Expert ecologist Emma Sheehy of the University of Aberdeen advises me to "sniff them around a bit," saying their traditional name "sweet mart" comes from their delicately scented poop. All things are relative I guess.

A little further into the woods, Emma managed to capture a sample of his chocolate brown fur, a perfect source of DNA for his population study, but he wouldn't give me a face-to-face meeting. In the wild, this probably won't go away, as their keen sense of smell, sight, and hearing hide from me in the woods. So, like many reporters disenchanted with the "real world," I turn to the Internet. Frontal images show a face so perfectly triangular that it appears almost two-dimensional, like something that could be cut for a covered ball.

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But there's something too focused and intense about this look to be considered "cute." Moving images reveal an animal with unusual agility, unusual stealth, and occasional ferocity. Its searching for prey among the swaying top blades reminds me of the on-screen swordplay in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The ambush of a missing rabbit is worthy of the translucent alien from Predator. In short, he is the best hunter in the forest. You might have thought squirrels were the perfect rosemary trainers, but the marten has them for lunch (or at least for dinner, because they love twilight). And that brings them new friends.

In Ireland in 1911, 12 gray squirrels arrived as a wedding gift before escaping, multiplying, and dispersing. Fast forward almost 100 years and its population was well established. But then conservationists in the Irish Midlands noticed numbers dwindling, occasionally to nothing. An advanced front of pine ferrets seemed to force their retreat. Large parts of central Ireland are now free of gray squirrels. Colin Lawton from the National University of Ireland in Galway has been following this transition for years. "Grey squirrels have disappeared from a very large area. In five counties in central Ireland, their populations have virtually collapsed... and they are very close to the central pine population.

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Grays still behave like an invasive species in other parts of the country, but here in the center they are disappearing." Now the same trend is happening in Scotland. Emma Sheehy and I have explored the perfect habitat for gray squirrels in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park have roamed but can't find any evidence of their presence, while pine ferrets have left clues everywhere. the presence of a twig killer is enough to scare them off Emma Sheehy says that in the US. , where grays come from, they don't get along with pine ferrets, so they haven't evolved to deal with the threat.

And the news gets better. Red squirrels and pine ferrets may share the forest. Emma Sheehy baits the feeders with nuts, and in exchange for a free meal, the red animals leave a piece of fur. The forests she has studied are clearly inhabited by ferrets and red squirrels. Reds evolved along with pine ferrets and seem to have learned to avoid getting caught. In fact, the Reds found a local hero to defend their home against foreign invaders. The enemy of his enemy is his friend. There are now plans to bring more pine ferrets to Wales this autumn, and wildlife enthusiasts are eyeing the more wooded areas of England as potential reintroduction sites. With his experience in Ireland, Colin Lawton cautions that this won't be a quick fix as pine ferrets are fairly slow breeders, but he is "very optimistic that this could be the turnaround and turnaround for the two species." ". of squirrel" And it seems that ferrets, as long as we don't kill them, can coexist very well with humans. garden for dinner 'toast and jam'.

Distribution map of ferrets

Protection, reduced pollution and increased woodland habitats across Britain have helped this agile hunter to recover.

But its success and popularity have ruffled some feathers. Pheasants, black grouse and rare grouse are certainly on the marten's menu and roost slaughter is close at hand. The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust notes that there are probably less than half as many ferrets left as pine ferrets, and the population continues to decline despite improvements to their forest habitats. They want to remove 10 pine ferrets a year from a study plot to see what this means for the weasel's reproductive success.

Pine ferrets are reintroduced to the Forest of Dean

In an effort to restore their population in England, 18 Pine Ferrets were released into the Forest of Dean.

Read the full story

Marten guide: how to identify and where to see it in Britain (12)

clash with shooting game

The British Shooting and Conservation Association acknowledges the potential benefit of pine ferrets in reducing gray squirrel numbers, but is concerned about conflicts with game birds. He believes that "it is important to have management flexibility to deal with potential conflict situations."

Shooting organizations don't want to stop the population from spreading, but they also don't want the ferrets to reach some sort of "sacred cow" conservation status where population control is never allowed. But the concern is not limited to those who are used to having a gun in hand. Ferrets are believed to have arrived on the Isle of Mull as stowaways on wooden boats for the logging industry and are scattered throughout the island. But what does this mean for other wild animals? A recent report from Scottish Natural Heritage raises concerns about birds such as the great crested grebe, great crested grebe and tree feller. A nest high up in a tree offers little protection for the eggs and hatchlings of such experienced climbers. Snakes and lizards may also be in danger: the arrival of ferrets to the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean has caused the native reptiles to become extinct.

Ferret restoration is a delight to anyone who feels our landscape is being improved by increasing the diversity of thriving native species. The fact that they can help us win a seemingly losing battle against an unwanted intruder is a huge plus. But very little of our land is truly wild and devoid of conservation or commercial interest. We can't control the appetite of such a skilled killer and sometimes they will eat the "wrong" thing.

Tom Heap PresentsCountryfile on BBC Oneand Costing the Earth on Radio 4. He is also a regular reporter for Panorama, covering food, agriculture, energy and wildlife.

How Britain's native predators defend themselves

The comeback with tooth and nail. Strong wildlife protection, less pollution and an increase in woodland habitats in Britain have helped some of our native predators to recover:

Milvus rode woof

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The red kite became extinct in England and Scotland at the end of the 19th century. Their deliberate reintroduction and dispersal has brought them back, with current population estimates of around 1,800-2,500 pairs.

buteo vulture vulture

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The population has declined due to illegal killing and organophosphate pesticides. Around 50,000 pairs have now been found, nesting in every county in the UK.

Polecat Mustela Putorius

Marten guide: how to identify and where to see it in Britain (15)

Rangers and trappers have reduced their numbers to 5,000, but polecats are now protected and have increased to about 50,000 individuals.

Nurse Luther Luther

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Just 50 years ago they were almost completely absent from England. They are now believed to exist in all prefectures.


What are the easiest Doc Martens to break in? ›

The soft leather is softer than the traditional leather and makes it 10 times easier to break into. They fit like any other Docs, but the leather comes very soft, meaning it has less rigid structure. The soft leather Doc Martens to get are the Nappa Leather, the Virginia leather, or the Pisa leather.

What is the difference between Swifts swallows and House Martins? ›

Key features to tell a swift from a swallow or martin are the dark underside (swallows and martins have pale bellies), the proportionately longer wings and the screaming call.

Where do martins go in the winter? ›

Although individual roosts remain active for six weeks or longer, individual birds may only stay at a roost an average of four weeks. They then begin their long migration back to South America. Most Purple Martins overwinter in Brazil, in large urban roosts.

How can I make my Dr Martens more comfortable? ›

Layer Up On Socks

Martens. Thin little ankle socks are your enemy here. Opt for thick wooly and wintery socks or even doubling up on socks that cover your entire ankle while you wear your Docs for the first handful of times in order to prevent your feet from rubbing against the tough leather.

What are the hardest Dr. Martens to break in? ›

Martens' original, thick, hardy, not-super-comfy boots. That's why the MiE Docs are hardest to break in but rest assured, if you bought the regular 1460 Dr. Martens, these tips will help as well. Their leather is a tad thinner, so it'll only be an easier process.

How many times do you have to wear Doc Martens to break them in? ›

For most models, the break-in time is between three and six weeks. The break-in period might take a few days to a few weeks. Applying heat treatments or wearing them with socks might help speed up the break-in process.

How do you identify a martin bird? ›

Adult males are iridescent, dark blue-purple overall with brown-black wings and tail. Females and immatures are duller, with variable amounts of gray on the head and chest and a whitish lower belly. Purple Martins fly rapidly with a mix of flapping and gliding.

Why are swifts called Devil birds? ›

Swifts are magical in the manner of all things that exist just a little beyond understanding. Once they were called the “Devil's bird,” perhaps because those screaming flocks of black crosses around churches seemed pulled from darkness, not light.

Are martins good birds to have around? ›

Purple martins are beneficial birds to have near a home or on a property because they eat insects.

Where do martins sleep at night? ›

Martins slept in martin houses until about 15 June, after which they commonly slept in trees. Birds that were firmly established on a territory slept in a room of that territory. Some pairs of birds slept together in the same room and others did not.

Do martins mate for life? ›

These newly paired mates then form a pair bond, defined as “an extended social and sexual association between a male and female”2 that generally lasts the entire breeding season. Martins do not form pair bonds for life, al- though some species such as the Canada Goose and the Bald Eagle do form life-long pair bonds.

How do I attract martins to my yard? ›

It is easiest to attract purple martins to open areas with little shelter, as the birds will be more secure when they have a good visual range to survey. A few scattered, open perches will be welcome, however, as the birds will use those vantage points to watch for threats, scan for food, or roost between feedings.

Are you supposed to wear socks with docs? ›

The first and most important way to care for your investment: wear the right socks with your Docs. If you have a brand new pair, consider setting up stages of socks for your breaking-in period. Begin with thicker socks to protect your feet from blisters and to help stretch the leather.

Should Dr. Martens fit tight or loose? ›

Get the perfect fit

If you normally take a half size, we recommend sizing down. The boots should feel tight, but not uncomfortable.

What kind of socks to wear with Dr. Martens? ›

The best socks for Doc Martens are those that provide a combination of comfort, durability, and moisture-wicking properties. Look for socks made from high-quality materials like merino wool or cotton blends that offer breathability and moisture management.

What is the best product to break in Dr. Martens? ›

Utilize leather conditioner

"Our balsam is formulated to nourish, condition and soften DM's leathers, so it's no surprise that it can come in handy when you're looking to tame a new pair. Rub some into the inside of your boot to get the ball rolling," suggests the Dr. Martens team.

Which Doc Martens don't need breaking in? ›

But from red vegan Chelsea boots to the classic 1460s to patent leather oxfords, if they've all had one thing in common (besides that thick rubber sole), it's how difficult each pair was to break in. All except for one: the Pascal Virginia boots ($135).

Which Doc Martens are softer? ›

The classic Dr. Martens 1460 8-eye boots are crafted from a thicker, smooth leather. This leather gives the boot a little more structure than the softer Virginia leather used on the Pascal boots. The Virginia leather is more malleable and more textured to the touch.

Do Doc Martens get easier to put on? ›

Doc marten boots will stretch out some with more wear. Eventually, they will conform generally to the shape of your foot. In the beginning they will be more snug, and you shouldn't buy a larger size to compensate for this.


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