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Wild Life Leaflet
Vipers Bugloss
Egyptian geese
Pine Martin
Colney Nature Watch
A series of articles on the wild life in London Colney
Pine Martin

In the old days, pine marten were pursued and slaughtered by farmers and gamekeepers. But now we know more about pine martens' eating habits they are now largely left alone, and with the spread of commercial forestry they are moving from their onetime strongholds in Scotland and Wales. The pine marten is a little smaller than the domestic cat, and considerably slimmer. It is dark brown with a creamy bib. It is unusual amongst mammals in having hair growing under its feet: this is because in their natural haunt, cold upland areas - they have to conserve all their body heat. Pine marten are very agile, and can follow squirrels up trees, which they catch and eat. By choice, pine marten most like eating small mammals and birds, but they also enjoy fruit, nuts and insects. Pine Marten have few natural enemies: although I suspect a buzzard or red kite would happily dispatch one if they met. Pine marten like living in forests - not necessarily pine - as long as there are sunny glades and rides. They mainly build their dens in stony outcrops or the roots of trees, but they have been found making a nest in bird boxes and hollow trees, Pine marten are mainly carnivorous - you'd never expect them to have a dense population. They get together in July, when they mate, but although intercourse has taken place, the actual implantation is delayed till January when pregnancy begins. The mother gives birth to three or so cubs in April, and it is a further six weeks before their eyes open. The cubs are reliant on their parents for a further six months, and when the cubs first leave home many die. This is because they are inexperienced in hunting: but if they survive the first year, they will probably live another four years. People who have kept pine marten as pets report them living up to ten years, but this is because of regular food, veterinary care and protection from bad weather. When gamekeepers and farmers were persecuting pine marten, scientists did a lot of research to discover what they actually ate, and farmers realised their lambs and hens weren't at risk and gamekeepers learnt that pine marten were not interested in pheasant fish or grouse. There are several other species of marten living in Europe. In Germany, France Italy and Austria there is the beech marten - which for reasons IÕll shortly divulge, happily does not live here! Beech marten have a similar diet to pine marten, but are rather bolder, and happily set up home on housing estates. They forage for food in and around houses, and for some strange reason have a great love of electric wire insulation. No doubt, some beech marten end up getting a fatal shock, but they have also been the cause of domestic fires. Again, beech marten happily nibble the wires in car electrics. It would be nice if one day we saw pine marten living on the outskirts of our village - lets hope some idiot doesn't import a pregnant female beech marten!