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One of the larger animals considered pests is the stone marten. Another word for stone marten is velveteen and it is a predator that falls under the marten category, just like otters or weasels, for example.
The stone marten is found throughout Europe, including the Netherlands. Furthermore, you can also find this marten-like animal in Asia and recently also in North America. It is not a frightened animal and lives without any problem in cities and towns. You find the stone marten increasingly around homes to find food. The stone marten is a real opportunist and easily adapts to different circumstances. Of course, life in the city is not without risks, the animal is often run over by cars.
As mentioned, the stone marten falls under the marten-like species, or Mustelidae. Its Latin name is the Martes foina. The stone marten can be divided into 11 subspecies. The species found in the Netherlands is the European stone marten (Martes f. foina). It is also the most common species in the world, found in Western Russia and Western Europe. This European marten was recognized as a species in 1777.
Other, less common, species include the Cretan beech marten found mainly in Crete and Greece, the Balkan beech marten that you will encounter in the Balkans and the Middle Asian beech marten that you will encounter in Asia.
Habitat of a stone marten in the Netherlands
The stone marten is found throughout the Netherlands, but it is notable that this animal mainly hides in the eastern part of the Netherlands. Because the stone marten is a protected species in the Netherlands, it is increasingly easy for the stone marten to reproduce. Because of ecological connecting zones, among other things, the marten is able to nest in an increasingly larger area. Where the stone marten is now mainly in the east, it will eventually migrate westward as well.
Outward characteristics of a stone marten
Compared to the pine marten, another similarly sized marten-like animal, the stone marten has a longer and more square head and rounder and widely spaced ears. The nose of a stone marten is often pink or gray, while that of a pine marten is often dark gray or black.
The stone marten has an average length of between 38 to 59 centimeters, but behind it, a tail that can be 23 to 32 centimeters long. In terms of weight, the stone marten weighs between 1 and 2 kilograms. As with many other animals, the male is larger and heavier than the female.
The fur of a stone marten varies by season. The summer coat is short and thin and the tail then has hardly any hair. The winter coat of the stone marten is obviously much thicker. Interestingly, the stone marten always has a white patch on its throat.
The stone marten’s natural habitat is mostly deciduous forest, but also at forest edges or on open rocky hills. As forests are becoming smaller and smaller, the stone marten lives closer and closer to humans. Therefore, it is not strange to encounter a stone marten in urban areas. For example, they take up residence in houses, in the attic, in a cavity wall and in stables and barns. In fact, all small cracks that are dry are suitable habitats for the stone marten. An opening of 5 to 9 centimeters is already large enough to find passage. The stone marten is also an active animal, especially at night, and has a large territory in which it can travel as much as 10 to 15 kilometers per night.
What does a stone marten eat?
Compared to the pine marten, a stone marten eats much more plant foods. These include berries, apples, pears, tomatoes and grapes. But the stone marten also eats meat such as mice, rats and insects. In addition, birds are sometimes on its menu, such as finches, or it robs birds’ nests.
Natural enemies of the stone marten
The reason that the stone marten can reproduce quite easily in the Netherlands is that it has only 1 natural enemy in the Netherlands: the fox. Although it also happens occasionally that a (young) stone marten is caught by a dog or cat. In other countries, the wolf, birds of prey, eagles and bears are also dangerous to them. The greatest unnatural enemy, of course, is man; the stone marten, for example, is often a traffic victim.
Reproduction and longevity
The mating season of the stone marten is in the summer. The gestation period is only 30 days, but due to an extended gestation period, during which the embryo is in a kind of dormancy, the young are not born until about 230 to 275 days later, in the spring. On average, a stone marten will give birth to 3 to 4 young, but 1 or 8 young are also common.
When a stone marten is 1 to 2 years old, they are sexually mature. In the wild the stone marten often falls victim to traffic or other influences, but in captivity a stone marten can live up to 18 years.
Nuisances and diseases
The biggest drawback of the stone marten is that they destroy cars. They gnaw the cables under the hood and the insulation material. This can be dangerous when a car at high speed suddenly cannot brake because of a broken brake cable. But insulation of houses is also often the victim, the stone marten gnaws it to make a passage to create a nest or sleeping place here. If you have martens in your home, you may also suffer from noise and odor nuisance.
In terms of diseases, you do not have to be afraid of the stone marten; it is not dangerous to humans and is not likely to attack you. Only if the animal is cornered or its young are threatened. In 2017, we did have a case of a stone marten with distemper, but this was a unique case.
If you are bothered by a stone marten in your home or car, you may not kill it. The stone marten is a protected species and therefore should not be captured, killed or disturbed. The reason for this is that for a long time the animal was doing badly, they were caught and killed because of their beautiful fur. If you still want to kill or capture the animal, you can get a high fine. By the way, this often makes little sense because in no time a conspecific will take its place.
With stone marten, prevention is better than cure. The best way to achieve success is to close off all entrances and tunnels through which the stone marten can pass and to make the area unattractive to it. If the stone marten no longer has an opportunity to nest, it will quickly pass by your home.
One way to make the environment unattractive, for example, is to use electronic devices such as ultrasound. This device makes high-pitched sounds that are unbearable to the stone marten. You can also place such a device in your car.
If you are really at a loss, there is nothing left for you but to call in a professional.
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