Pine Marten – Martes martes
Until the 19th Century, pine martens were found throughout much of mainland Britain, the Isle of Wight and some of the Scottish islands. Habitat fragmentation, persecution by gamekeepers and martens being killed for their fur, drastically reduced this distribution. By 1926, the main pine marten population in Britain was restricted to a small area of north-west Scotland, with small numbers in N Wales and the Lake District. They have now increased their range in Scotland, and now occur throughout the Highlands, N of the Central Belt but remains one of the rarest native mammals in Great Britain, with a total population of around 3-4,000, but Ireland probably also has as many.
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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Footprints: 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.
Droppings: Usually deposited singly and often contain hair and bone (carnivorous diet). Variable in size, 40-120mm in length and 12mm thick. Colour: blackish. Smell: Sweet smelling, like violets when fresh. Distinctive ‘S-shaped’ from how pine martens ‘wiggle’ when defecating.
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.