The Pine Marten | FAQs

Where in Britain do pine martens live?

Pine martens are found throughout most of northern and central Scotland, with some populations in southern Scotland. Pine martens have begun to spread over the Scottish/English border and re-colonise areas of Northumberland and Cumbria. Elsewhere in England, there are pine martens of unknown origin in Shropshire and Hampshire. Between 2015 – 2017, the VWT translocated 51 pine martens from Scotland to mid-Wales, with the aim of re-establishing a viable marten population in Wales.


What habitat do pine martens use?

Pine martens prefer three dimensionally complex habitat, and have excellent climbing skills that have evolved in forested habitats. They prefer to den in tree cavities in which they rest and breed, but can find shelter in thick vegetation, rocky terrain, manmade structures and large birds nests.


What do pine martens eat?

Pine martens have a varied, seasonal diet and will eat what is plentiful locally. This may include small mammals, fruit and berries, birds, eggs, insects and carrion. Pine martens may be attracted to wildlife hides and human dwellings, where people tempt them with peanuts, raisins, peanut butter, jam and even cake!


Do pine martens eat squirrels?

Pine martens and red squirrels have evolved together throughout their Eurasian range in a natural predator/prey relationship, though studies in Britain and Ireland highlight a low occurrence of red squirrel in pine marten diet. Recent research in Ireland by Emma Sheehy and colleagues has suggested that where pine martens are naturally recovering their former range, grey squirrel numbers are decreasing, allowing recolonisation of woodland by red squirrels (see paper here). A follow up study in Scotland by Sheehy and the University of Aberdeen supported the findings of the Irish study, suggesting that pine martens have the potential to suppress grey squirrels where they co-occur, but not red squirrels, which appeared to benefit from pine marten presence (see paper here). Though compelling, the mechanism behind this relationship remains unclear, and further research is required to understand the dynamic between the three species.


What should I do if I see a pine marten?

If you see a pine marten in England or Wales, please report it to us immediately. If possible, please try and take a photograph or video. If you’re in Scotland, the local biological records centre, will be interested to receive the record.


Where can I watch pine martens?

Pine martens are largely nocturnal and not often seen. There are several wildlife hides in Scotland where pine martens visit to take bait put out for them, including the Speyside Wildlife hide in the Cairngorms. There are also various holiday cottages and B&Bs where pine martens are attracted to feeding stations.


Why reintroduce/reinforce pine martens?

Pine marten populations in England and Wales have become so small and isolated that they are very unlikely to recover naturally without intervention. While the population in Scotland is spreading southwards, it is unlikely that it will spread to re-colonise central and southern England and Wales, due to the large conurbations in north-west and central England and a lack of suitable habitat in some of these areas. Translocating animals from healthy populations to suitable areas of England and Wales is a way of restoring viable pine marten populations to Wales and southern England.


What legal protection do pine martens have?

Pine martens are listed under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) which means that it is illegal to intentionally kill or injure pine martens, or disturb their dens. Any research that could disturb pine martens, such as trapping animals or monitoring den boxes, must be done under a licence from the relevant statutory body.