Marten is any of several weasel-like carnivores of the genus Martes (family Mustelidae).
They live in the Northern Hemisphere: in Canada and parts of the United States and in the Old World from Europe to the Malay region.
Martens are found in taigas, coniferous and northern deciduous forests.
There are 8 species of marten:
• American marten (M. americana)
• Newfoundland pine marten (M. a. atrata)
• Yellow-throated marten (M. flavigula)
• Beech marten (M. foina)
• Nilgiri marten (M. gwatkinsii)
• European pine marten (M. martes)
• Japanese marten (M. melampus)
• Sable (M. zibe)
The average lifespan of martens is about 15 years.
The American marten size: head-and-body length is 35 to 43 cm (14 to 17 inches), with a 22 to 27 cm (about 9 to 11 inch) long tail. Its shoulder height is 15 cm (about 6 inches), and its weight is 1 to 2 kg. Other species are similar in size.
Martens are slender, agile animals. They have lithe slender bodies, short legs, large paws with partially retractible claws rounded ears, bushy tails, and soft thick coats that are valuable in the fur trade.
The fur varies from yellowish to dark brown, depending on the species, and, in many cases, is valued by fur trappers.
Martens are carnivores which mainly hunt at night.
They eat mostly small mammals like squirrels, voles, mice, rabbits, but also fish, insects, eggs and sometimes fruits (mostly berries) when available.
Martens are solitary animals.
They meet to mate in late spring or early summer and have a litter of up to five babies. Little martens, called ‘kits’, are born blind and naked in early spring, after long gestation.
They are weaned after around two months, and leave the mother to fend for themselves at about three to four months of age.
Due to their habit of seeking warm and dry places and to gnaw on soft materials, martens cause damage to soft plastic and rubber parts in cars and other parked vehicles, annually costing millions of euros in Central Europe alone, thus leading to the offering of marten-damage insurance, “marten-proofing”, and electronic repellent devices.
In the Middle Ages, marten pelts were highly valued goods used as a form of payment in Slavonia, the Croatian Littoral, and Dalmatia. The banovac, a coin struck and used between 1235 and 1384, included the image of a marten. This is one of the reasons why the Croatian word for marten, kuna, is the name of the modern Croatian currency. A marten is depicted on the obverse of the 1-, 2-, and 5-kuna coins, minted since 1993, and on the reverse of the 25-kuna commemorative coins.
The Finnish communications company Nokia derives its name, via the river Nokianvirta, from a type of marten locally known as the nokia.
Animals commonly called “marten” but better known by other names include the Pennant’s, big, or fisher marten (see fisher) and the foul marten (see polecat).