Beech Marten: Profile and Information

Beech Marten

The beech marten (Martes foina), also called the house marten, stone marten or breasted marten, is a species of marten endemic to Central Asia and much of Europe, though it has a well established feral population in North America.

The beech marten is listed on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern because of its presence in a number of protected areas, its large population, and wide distribution.

It differs in size and habitat preferences when compared to the pine marten but is said to be also superficially similar to it.

The beech marten is more of a generalist and an adaptable species, occurring in a number of forest and open habitats, while the pine marten is a forest specialist.

Scientific classification

Scientific NameMartes foina


European beech marten (Martes f. foina)The European beech marten is a small subspecies with a small-sized skull. In winter, its back varies from dark brown to light greyish tawny. The guard hairs are chestnut brown or tawny, whereas the underfur is light pale-grey. The withers and flanks are slightly lighter than the back, while the belly remains darker. The throat patch is pure white and the legs dark brown. The patch is variable in shape and size.Western Europe (except the Balkan Peninsula), European Russia, and the Iberian Peninsula.
Balkan beech marten (Martes f. bosniaca)Balkan Peninsula.
Cretan beech marten (Martes f. bunites)A subspecies smaller than foina, with a less defined throat patch. However, this trait may be absent in some specimens.Skopelos, Crete, Erimomilos, Naxos, Samothrake, Karpathos, Kythnos, and Seriphos.
Middle Asian beech marten (Martes f. intermedia)A subspecies smaller than nehringi, and has a lighter fur. The back is fairly dark greyish-tawny. The underfur is almost white and the guard hairs are dark-tawny.weatern Pakistan, northern Iran, west Himalayas, Afghanistan, Tibet, Tien Shan, and northern Mongolia.
Tibetan beech marten (Martes f. kozlovi)Eastern Tibet.
Iberian beech marten (Martes f. mediterranea)Iberian Peninsula.
Rhodes beech marten (Martes f. milleri)Rhodes.
Caucasian beech marten
(Martes f. nehringi)
A large-sized subspecies with a massive skull. The winter coat is dark tawny or dark brownish-tawny with a greyish tint. The flanks are lighter than the tail, and the back and feet are dark brown. The throat patch varies in size and form.Iran, Caucasus, and contiguous parts of Turkey.
Crimean beech marten (Martes f. rosanowi)Montane Crimea.
Syrian beech marten (Martes f. syriaca)Syria.
Lhasa beech marten
(Martes f. toufoeus)
Tibet (Lhasa).


The beech marten is said to be superficially similar to the pine marten but has a more elongated and angular head, a slightly longer tail, and shorter, and more rounded and widely spaced ears.

The nose of the beech marten is grey or light peach, while that of the pine marten is dark black or greyish-black.

Its feet are not as heavily furred as those of the marten pine, thus making them appear less large, even in winter, with the paw pads remaining visible.

The method of locomotion of the beech marten varies from that of the pine marten because of its shorter limbs; the beech marten travels by slipping in a polecat-like manner.

The beech marten’s skull is similar to that of the pine marten, except in its shorter facial area, its larger carnassials, and smaller molars, and its more convex profile varies.

The penis of the beech marten is larger than that of the pine marten, with young beech marten bacula sometimes outsizing those of old pine martens.

In body length, males measure 430 to 590 mm, while females measure 380 to 470 mm. In males, the tail measures 250 to 320 mm, and in females, 230 to 275 mm.

In winter, males weigh 1.7 to 1.8 kg and 2 to 2.1 kg in summer, while females in winter weigh 1.1 to 1.3 kg and 1.4 to 1.5 kg in summer.

With elastic guard hair and less thick underfur, the beech marten’s fur is coarser than the pine marten’s. It has a short, sparse, and coarse summer coat, and the tail is sparsely furred.

The colour tone of the pine marten is darker than that of the beech marten. The underfur of the marten is whitish, rather than greyish like the pine marten.

The beech marten’s throat patch is always white. The patch is wide and usually has two projections that stretch backwards and upwards on the legs to the base of the forelegs.

Between the forelegs, the dark colour of the belly juts out as a line into the white colour of the chest and into the neck occasionally.

By comparison, the white colour between the forelegs juts backwards in the pine marten as a protrusion into the colour of the belly.


The beech marten, but to a far lesser degree than the European polecat, is primarily a crepuscular and nocturnal species.

During moonlit nights, it is particularly active. Beech martens are less arboreal in their habits, being a more terrestrial species than pine martens, although it can be a specialised climber in heavily forested areas.

It is also a skilled swimmer, and may often be active during daytime hours, especially in the summer, when nights are short. It usually hunts on the ground. The beech marten travels across paths made by skis or hares during heavy snowfalls.

One specimen was reported to have had a home range of 130 acres (52.5 ha) with two centres of activity in a region of northeastern Spain where the beech marten still lives in relatively unmodified habitats.

Its maximum activity time was between 6 PM and midnight. The animal was found to be mostly inactive between 9 AM and 6 PM. Beech marten dens are almost entirely in buildings in urban areas, particularly during winter.

Beech martens do not dig burrows, nor does it inhabit other animals’ burrows. Instead, it nests in gaps between stones in rock slides and inhabited or uninhabited stone structures in naturally occurring fissures and clefts in rocks.

It has been recorded that the beech marten preys on European polecats on rare occasions. Adult beech marten may be preyed on by red foxes, lynxes, and mountain lions, and juveniles are vulnerable to attack by prey and wildcat birds.


At the same time, estrus and copulation occur for both the pine marten and the beech marten. Copulation may last longer than 1 hour.

Mating takes place from June to July and takes place on the ground or on the roofs of houses in the morning or on moonlit nights.

The gestation period may last as long as the pine marten, lasting in the wild for 236 to 237 days and in fur farms for 254 to 275 days. Parturition takes place from late March to early April, with the average litter consisting of 3 to7 kits.

The kits are born blind, but begin to see at the age of 30 to 36 days. The lactation period lasts for 40 to 45 days.


A much greater quantity of plant food is used in the diet of the beech marten than that of the pine marten and sable.

Cherries, strawberries, pears, plums, black nightshade, onions, grapes, raspberries, and mountain ash are included in the plant foods consumed by the beech marten. Birds, mice, and chickens are consumed as well.

Sparrow-like birds predominate among bird species preyed upon by the beech marten. In addition to the fledgelings, the marten likes to plunder bird nests, including passerines, Galliformes, and owls, preferring to kill the parents.

While poultry is rarely attacked, some specimens may become trained poultry raiders, even if wild prey is abundant.

Males appear to target big live prey more than females, who feed more frequently on small prey and carrion.


The beech marten is a common species that occurs in most of Europe and Central Asia. It occurs across Central and Southern Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia, Spain and Portugal, reaching as far east as the mountains of the Altai and Tien Shan and northwest China.

This species is absent in the British Isles, the Scandinavian Peninsula, Finland, Denmark, northern European Russia, and the Northern Baltic Sea.

It occurs in Afghanistan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bhutan, and northern Burma was recently reported to be inhabited.

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