Pine martens hunt in trees and on the ground. They like to roam in broad-leaved or conifer woodlands, and the destruction of these is a threat to the species. They find most of their food on the ground, and they hunt for small mammals, birds, insects, fungi, berries, birds' eggs and carrion (dead animals). Contrary to some opinions, they do not eat significant quantities of squirrels, red or grey. Pine martens avoid areas away from woodland or scrub, probably because other predators (especially foxes) can catch and kill them in the open.

Martens have territories that vary in size according to the availability of food. For males, the territory is about 10-25 square kilometres, and for females, about 5 - 15 kilometres. They are not aggressively territorial, some animals' territories overlapping those of others. Sometimes, however, they mark their trail with faeces ("scats"). even in places where they are at their most numerous, pine martens are thin on the ground compared with other carnivores like foxes, stoats and badgers.They can be very playful and curious in their behaviour.


Pine martens breed only once a year. Mating takes place in July or August, but the female'spregnancy does not begin until January. (This delayed implantation also occurs in the badger.) A litter of about three babies is born in late March or April. At birth, the young are blind and covered in a coat of yellow-white hair which changes to grey, and then to brown as they mature. The babies spend at least six weeks in the den before they venture out, and the family stays together until they are six months old. They may live to 11 years old, but the normal lifespan is is three to four years.

Photo of juvenile pine marten; copyright of Neil Hancock