Na­ture di­ary Pine martens

The Irish Times - Weekend Review - - OUTDOORS - SYLVIA THOMP­SON

Pine martens are one of Ire­land’s rarest na­tive mam­mals. For years, these cat-sized an­i­mals were on the brink of ex­tinc­tion but le­gal pro­tec­tion un­der var­i­ous wildlife acts has meant that they are now in ev­ery county of Ire­land.

A mem­ber of the mustelid fam­ily, which in­cludes the badger, ot­ter and stoat, pine martens have rich brown fur, a creamy yel­low bib, prom­i­nent rounded ears and long bushy tails.

They use tree cav­i­ties as breed­ing and rest­ing sites but will mi­grate to rocky ar­eas and build­ings if wood­lands aren’t avail­able.

Some farm­ers claim that in­creased num­bers of pine martens are re­spon­si­ble for killing newly-born lambs or calves. Con­ser­va­tion­ists counter this sug­ges­tion by say­ing that pine martens are too small to kill live­stock and gen­er­ally feed on veg­e­ta­tion but will eat smaller mam­mals – birds and even chick­ens – if they get a chance.

A new web­site from the Vin­cent Wildlife Trust, ded­i­cated to pine martens (pine­marten.ie) shares facts about these small mam­mals and ex­plains how to keep

them out of pheas­ant pens, hen houses and wheelie bins.

Pine martens use tree cav­i­ties as breed­ing and rest­ing sites

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