Dark brown fur with yellow/white patch extending down throat and chest. Paler outlines of ears. Long fluffy tail. Moults in April and has thin dark brown coat in summer. Thicker winter coat grows in September, which is paler, medium grey brown.
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Tracks are very similar to other carnivores, and can easily be confused with polecat and mink as they are also five-toed and of similar size. The width is 3.5cm and the length is 4cm.
Usually deposited singly and often contain hair and bone (carnivorous diet). Variable in size, 40-120mm in length and 12mm thick.
Smell: Sweet smelling, like violets when fresh.
Mostly found in Scotland. Small pockets in Wales and northern England. Escaped or released individuals may occur in other areas. Found in parts of Ireland, especially in the west. (Maps are based on expert advice, as of 2007. Some species ranges may have changed in the time since. We are currently in the process of updating them.)
Takes whatever is available from small mammals, rabbits, hares, squirrels, carrion of deer (scavenged dead deer), birds, eggs, insects, fruit, nuts, fungi, frogs, toads, lizards and left overs from rubbish bins and bird tables.
Up to 8 years.
American Mink (Neovison vison)
American mink is usually all dark brown, with a white chin. The pine marten is all dark brown except for a cream/yellow bib down the throat and chest. Ears are proportionately smaller and much less conspicuous than pine marten’s.
Polecat (Mustela putorius)
Polecat has patches or a band of pale fur above the eyes and around the mouth, which creates a bandit face appearance. Pine marten face is dark brown all over. Polecat has a blackish coat (with a cream underfur that shows through) whilst pine marten is dark brown with a cream/yellow bib down the throat and chest. Polecat’s ears are smaller and less conspicuous than those of pine marten.
Martin Noble, Hampshire Mammal Group, says:
“For many years pine martens have been largely restricted to the more remote parts of the north and west of Scotland. However since they received legal protection, their range has gradually increased through much of the rest of Scotland and into northern England. Sadly at the present rate of expansion it is unlikely that they will reach the south coast of England for many, many years and Natural England’s proposed re-introduction programme seems to have faltered due to lack of commitment. But in recent years there appears to have been a small unofficial release programme in the New Forest. Since 1993 sightings have become more and more frequent with several confirmed records each year. Although we are still awaiting signs of breeding success it surely can only be a matter of time before some walker in the Forest comes across a family group.”
Please report any New Forest sightings to Martin Noble, Hampshire Mammal Group on firstname.lastname@example.org.