The European Pine Marten (Martes martes) is one of Ireland’s rarest wild animals. Martens belong to the mustelid family, which also includes mink, otter, badger, wolverine and weasel, and they are roughly the size of a domestic cat. Pine martens are arboreal(they have semi-retractable claws) so they will generally inhabit forests of coniferous or mixed tree types but in the west of Ireland they can be found on open rocky areas which contain scrub with good ground cover. They generally avoid coastal areas or open un-covered habitat types. Pine martens have been indigenous to Ireland since a period just after the last ice age, and are one of Ireland’s most important small mammal species.
Despite being preyed upon by red foxes and occasionally golden eagles, the greatest threat to martens as a species is humans. to humans. Their fur is prized, and loss of habitat continues to be a significant problem, as does illegal poisoning and shooting. Fortunately, national leaders have recognized the importance of this indigenous mammal to the Irish environment—the pine marten is now listed as a protected species under Irish, European and international legislation.
Their numbers are increasing slowly in Scotland.