Beech marten

( Latin: Martesfoina)

In many parts of Europe (although not Britain) beech martens occur quite commonly on farms and in holiday houses in the country. They sometimes live in the lofts where they make their lairs in hay or straw, or even in the roof insulation. The 2-5 young are born in late April. The adults catch rats and mice, and also take quite a number of birds and their eggs.

Normally martens are not much seen, for they start to hunt about an hour or two after midnight, having first moved around the loft for an hour or so. They return home at 5-6 o’clock in the morning and go to sleep again, after another stroll. Apart from this habit of wandering around at night martens normally cause no great trouble. Sometimes, however, their drop- pings and the remains of their prey are a nuisance, and they also damage insulating • materials when making their lair (see also under ‘thatch’, p. 161).

If martens do become a nuisance they can be driven away by laying down strong- smelling substances in the loft, such as naphthalene or ammonia. They are also sensitive to noise and will usually move off if continually disturbed over a period. Once they have been driven away their means of access must be blocked, otherwise new ones will quickly move in.

Beech martens are very skilful climbers, and they can get through gaps with a diameter of only 6 cm. They often find their way up to the roof by using espalier fruit trees, drainpipes or even large trees growing close to the house. Their route can sometimes be traced by the tracks or footprints they leave (p. 210).