The beech marten (
Martes foina), also known as the stone marten, house
marten or white breasted marten, is a species of marten native to much
Europe and Central Asia, though it has established a feral
population in North America. It is listed as
Least Concern by the IUCN
on account of its wide distribution, its large population, and its
presence in a number of protected areas. It is superficially
similar to the pine marten, but differs from it by its smaller size
and habitat preferences. While the pine marten is a forest specialist,
the beech marten is a more generalist and adaptable species, occurring
in a number of open and forest habitats.
3.1 Social and territorial behaviours
3.2 Reproduction and development
3.4 Relationships with other predators
4.1 Introduction in North America
5 Relationships with humans
5.2 Hunting and fur use
5.4 Large Hadron Collider
Its most likely ancestor is
Martes vetus, which also gave rise to the
pine marten. The earliest M. vetus fossils were found in deposits
dated to the
Würm glaciation in
Lebanon and Israel. The beech marten
likely originated in the
Near East or southwestern Asia, and may have
Europe by the
Late Pleistocene or the early Holocene. Thus,
the beech marten differs from most other European mustelids of the
Quaternary, as all other species (save for the European mink) appeared
during the Middle Pleistocene. Comparisons between fossil animals and
their descendants indicate that the beech marten underwent a decrease
in size beginning in the Würm period. Beech martens indigenous to
Aegean Islands represent a relic population with primitive Asiatic
The skull of the beech marten suggests a higher adaptation than the
pine marten toward hypercarnivory, as indicated by its smaller head,
shorter snout and its narrower post-orbital constriction and lesser
emphasis on cheek teeth. Selective pressures must have acted to
increase the beech marten's bite force at the expense of gape. These
traits probably acted on male beech martens as a mechanism to avoid
both intraspecific competition with females and interspecific
competition with the ecologically overlapping pine marten.
As of 2005[update], eleven subspecies are recognised.
European beech marten
Martes f. foina
A small subspecies, with an average-sized skull. In winter, its back
varies from light greyish tawny to completely dark brown. The guard
hairs are tawny or chestnut brown, while the underfur is very light,
pale-grey. The flanks and withers are slightly lighter than the back,
and the belly darker. The legs are dark brown and the throat patch
pure white. The patch is variable in size and shape.
European Russia, Western
Europe (except the Balkan Peninsula) and the
alba (Bechstein, 1801)
domestica (Pinel, 1792)
fagorum (Fatio, 1869)
Balkan beech marten
Martes f. bosniaca
Cretan beech marten
Martes f. bunites
A smaller subspecies than foina, with a less defined throat patch,
which may be absent in some specimens.
Crete, Skopelos, Naxos, Erimomilos, Karpathos, Samothrake, Seriphos
Middle Asian beech marten
Martes f. intermedia
A smaller subspecies than nehringi, with lighter fur. The back is
moderately dark greyish-tawny. The flanks are lighter, but of the same
tone as the back. The guard hairs are dark-tawny, while the underfur
is almost white. The tail is dark brown. The throat patch is very
variable, being sometimes completely undefined.
Montane Middle Asia, from
Kopet Dag and Bolshoi Balkhas to Tarbagatai
(in the Khangai Mountains) and Altai. Outside the former Soviet Union,
its range includes northern Iran, Afghanistan, western Pakistan,
western Himalayas, Tien Shan,
Tibet and northern Mongolia
altaica (Satunin, 1914)
leucolachnaea (Blanford, 1879)
Tibetan beech marten
Martes f. kozlovi
Iberian beech marten
Martes f. mediterranea
A lighter, less drab coloured form than foina.
Rhodes beech marten
Martes f. milleri
Caucasian beech marten
Martes f. nehringi
A large subspecies with a massive skull. The winter coat is quite
dark, brownish-tawny or dark tawny with a greyish tint. The flanks are
lighter than the back, and the tail and feet are dark brown. The
throat patch varies in form and size, but shows a tendency towards
Caucasus and contiguous parts of
Turkey and Iran
Crimean beech marten
Martes f. rosanowi
Martino and Martino, 1917
A smaller subspecies than foina, but with near identical colours.
Syrian beech marten
Martes f. syriaca
A pale coloured subspecies with a smaller skull than the nominative
Lhasa beech marten
Martes f. toufoeus
Skull, as illustrated in Merriam's Synopsis of the weasels of North
Various throat patch variations, as illustrated in Pocock, Reginald,
The Fauna of British India, including Ceylon and Burma —
The beech marten is superficially similar to the pine marten, but has
a somewhat longer tail, a more elongated and angular head and has
shorter, more rounded and widely spaced ears. Its nose is also of a
light peach or grey colour, whereas that of the pine marten is dark
black or greyish-black. Its feet are not as densely furred as
those of the pine marten, thus making them look less broad, with the
paw pads remaining visible even in winter. Because of its shorter
limbs, the beech marten's manner of locomotion differs from that of
the pine marten; the beech marten moves by creeping in a polecat-like
manner, whereas the pine marten and sable move by bounds. The
weight load per 1 cm2 of the supporting surface of the beech
marten's foot (30.9 gm) is double that of the pine marten (15.2 gm),
thus it is obliged to avoid snowy regions.
Its skull is similar to that of the pine marten, but differs in its
shorter facial region, more convex profile, its larger carnassials and
smaller molars. The beech marten's penis is larger than the pine
marten's, with the bacula of young beech martens often outsizing those
of old pine martens. Males measure 430–590 mm in body length,
while females measure 380–470 mm. The tail measures
250–320 mm in males and 230–275 mm in females. Males
weigh 1.7–1.8 kg in winter and 2–2.1 kg in summer, while
females weigh 1.1–1.3 kg in winter and 1.4–1.5 kg in
The beech marten's fur is coarser than the pine marten's, with elastic
guard hairs and less dense underfur. Its summer coat is short, sparse
and coarse, and the tail is sparsely furred. The colour tone is
lighter than the pine marten's. Unlike the pine marten, its underfur
is whitish, rather than greyish. The tail is dark-brown, while the
back is darker than that of the pine marten. The throat patch of the
beech marten is always white. The patch is large and generally has two
projections extending backwards to the base of the forelegs and upward
on the legs. The dark colour of the belly juts out between the
forelegs as a line into the white colour of the chest and sometimes
into the neck. In the pine marten, by contrast, the white colour
between the forelegs juts backwards as a protrusion into the belly
A litter of beech marten kits in а farm outbuilding in the village of
Beech marten fighting a European otter, as illustrated in Brehm's Life
The beech marten is mainly a crepuscular and nocturnal animal, though
to a much lesser extent than the European polecat. It is especially
active during moonlit nights. Being a more terrestrial animal than the
pine marten, the beech marten is less arboreal in its habits, though
it can be a skilled climber in heavily forested areas. It is a skilled
swimmer, and may occasionally be active during daytime hours,
particularly in the summer, when nights are short. It typically hunts
on the ground. During heavy snowfalls, the beech marten moves through
paths made by hares or skis.
Social and territorial behaviours
In an area of northeastern Spain, where the beech marten still lives
in relatively unmodified habitats, one specimen was recorded to have
had a home range of 52.5 ha (130 acres) with two centres of
activity. Its period of maximum activity occurred between 6-12 PM.
Between 9-6 PM, the animal was found to be largely inactive. In
urban areas, beech martens den almost entirely in buildings,
particularly during winter. The beech marten does not dig burrows,
nor does it occupy those of other animals. Instead, it nests in
naturally occurring fissures and clefts in rocks, spaces between
stones in rock slides and inhabited or uninhabited stone structures.
It may live in tree holes at a height of up to 9 metres.
Reproduction and development
Estrus and copulation occur at the same time as in the pine
Copulation can last longer than 1 hour. Mating occurs
in the June–July period, and takes place in the morning or in
moonlit nights on the ground or on the roofs of houses. The gestation
period lasts as long as the pine marten's, lasting 236–237 days in
the wild, and 254–275 days in fur farms.
Parturition takes place in
late March-early April, with the average litter consisting of 3-7
kits. The kits are born blind, and begin to see at the age of 30–36
days. The lactation period lasts 40–45 days. In early July, the
young are indistinguishable from the adults.
The beech marten's diet includes a much higher quantity of plant food
than that of the pine marten and sable. Plant foods eaten by the beech
marten include cherries, apples, pears, plums, black nightshade,
tomatoes, grapes, raspberries and mountain ash. Plant food typically
predominates during the winter months. Rats, mice and chickens are
also eaten. Among bird species preyed upon by the beech marten,
sparrow-like birds predominate, though snowcocks and partridges may
also be taken. The marten likes to plunder nests of birds including
passerines, galliformes and owls, preferring to kill the parents in
addition to the fledglings. Although it rarely attacks poultry, some
specimens may become specialized poultry raiders, even when wild prey
is abundant. Males tend to target large, live prey more than
females, who feed on small prey and carrion with greater frequency.
Relationships with other predators
In areas where the beech marten is sympatric with the pine marten, the
two species avoid competing with one another by assuming different
ecological niches; the pine marten feeds on birds and rodents more
frequently, while the beech marten feeds on fruits and insects.
There is however one case of a subadult beech marten being killed by a
pine marten. The beech marten has been known to kill European polecats
on rare occasions. Red foxes, lynxes and mountain lions may prey on
adults, whereas juveniles are vulnerable from attack by birds of prey
and wildcats. There is, however, one case from Germany of a beech
marten killing a domestic cat.
The beech marten is a widespread species which occurs throughout much
Europe and Central Asia. It occurs from
Portugal in the
west, through Central and Southern Europe, the
Middle East and Central
Asia, extending as far east as the Altai and
Tien Shan mountains and
northwest China. Within Europe, the species is absent in the British
Isles, Scandinavian peninsula, Finland, the northern Baltic and
northern European Russia. It occurs in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India,
Bhutan and was recently confirmed to inhabit northern Burma.
Introduction in North America
The beech marten is present in Wisconsin, particularly near the urban
centres surrounding Milwaukee. It is also present in several wooded,
upland areas in the Kettle Moraine State Forest, and in nearby
woodlands of Walworth, Racine, Waukesha and probably Jefferson
Counties. North American beech martens are likely descended from feral
animals that escaped a private fur farm in Burlington during the
1940s. They have also been listed as being released or having
escaped in 1972. 
Relationships with humans
George Rolleston theorised that the "domestic cat"
of the Ancient Greeks and Romans was in fact the beech marten.
Pioneering marine biologist Jeanne Villepreux-Power kept two tame
Hunting and fur use
Although the beech marten is a valuable animal to the fur trade, its
pelt is inferior in quality to that of the pine marten and sable.
Beech marten skins on the fur markets of the
Soviet Union accounted
for only 10-12% of the market presence of pine marten skins. Beech
martens were caught only in the Caucasus, in the Montane part of
Crimea and (in very small numbers) in the rest of Ukraine, and in the
republics of Middle Asia. Because animals with more valuable pelts are
rare in those areas, the beech marten is of value to hunters on the
local market. Beech martens are captured with jaw traps, or, for live
capture, with cage traps. The shooting of beech martens is
inefficient, and trailing them with dogs is only successful when the
animal can be trapped in a tree hollow.
Since the mid-1970s, the beech marten has been known to occasionally
cause damage to cars. Cars attacked by martens typically have cut
tubes and cables. A beech marten can slice through the cables of a
starter motor with just one bite. The reason for this is not fully
known, as the damaged items are not eaten. There is, however, a
seasonal peak in marten attacks on cars in spring, when young martens
explore their surroundings more often and have yet to learn which
items in their habitat are edible or not. The fishoil, often
contained in the cables of cars of Japanese origin, may contribute to
Large Hadron Collider
On 29 April and 21 November 2016, two beech martens shut down the
Large Hadron Collider, the world's most powerful particle accelerator,
by climbing on 18–66 kV electrical transformers located above
ground near the
LHCb and ALICE experiments, respectively.
The second marten was stuffed and put on display in the Rotterdam
Natural History Museum.
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