Monday, March 5, 2007

Beech Marten

There's a beech marten living round here. I found it's sprait (droppings) in the garden. Beech martens (also known as stone marten, scientific name Martes foina) are a mustelid, relatives of otters, polecats and mink. They are quite widespread across central and eastern Europe. They live mostly in low-lying broadleaved woodlands but also in settlements. They are nocturnal and the best views I have had have always been when walking home late on, usually one bounding across the road and then diving under a parked car or leaping into someone's garden.
A few winters ago one used to sleep under the bonnet of my mother-in-laws car, we found scraps of food, including a nibbled bread roll and it had bitten through a cable, too.
Beech martens have a brown coat, a long bushy tail and a distinctive white bib. Its close relative, the pine marten Martes martes, is also fairly common but is more of an upland species inhabiting mature mixed forests. Both martens are good tree climbers and prey on squirrels, dormice, and birds. They use tree-holes, black woodpecker cavities and squirrel dreys as dens.
Anyway, back to those droppings. I gave them a poke with a stick and found they contained a few fruit stones and undigested house-hold scraps.A close sniff revealed them to be quite sweet smelling, which is typical for this mustelid.

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