The photos below have been taken over nearly 20 years from several generations of two different families of Pine Martens who habitually reside in the forest on the west shore of Loch Shieldaig

The Pine Marten can often be seen in the Torridon area of the Highlands of Scotland. The adult is the size of a small domestic cat; it is slender with dense, chocolate-brown fur and a long bushy tail. It has an orange cream coloured bib on the throat. The male measures on average 68 cm from nose to tip of tail. The female is slightly smaller. It is a member of the weasel family.

They move quickly along the ground, rarely emerging into open spaces. They are expert at climbing trees. They are mostly likely to be seen in the evening or at night, although they do come out during the daytime in summer months. They have an alert and timid presence, but are very inquisitive.


Although Pine Martens live in the Scottish Highlands and Grampian, and occasionally in southern Scotland, there may still be isolated individuals in Northumberland and North Yorkshire in England, although these are almost certainly extinct.

Most pine martens prefer woodland, mainly coniferous. Some can be found on rocky moorland and hillsides or cliffs covered with scrub. They live in holes in trees, old squirrel dreys and even old birds' nests. If it falls from a tree, its body twists to land safely on all fours from as high as 20 metres

Pine Martens hunt in trees and on the ground. They like to roam in broad-leaved or conifer woodlands, and the destruction of these is a threat to the species. They find most of their food on the ground, and they hunt for small mammals, birds, insects, fungi, berries, birds' eggs and carrion.

Contrary to some opinions, they do not eat significant quantities of squirrels, red or grey.

The young (kits) spend at least six weeks in the den before they venture out, and the family stays together until they are six months old.

They may live to 11 years old, but the normal lifespan is is three to four years.

Young Pine Marten

Pine Martens avoid areas away from woodland or scrub, probably because other predators can catch and kill them in the open. Martens have territories that vary in size according to the availability of food. For males, the territory is about 10-25 square kilometres, and for females, about 5 - 15 kilometres. They are not aggressively territorial, some animals' territories overlapping those of others. Sometimes, however, they mark their trail with faeces ("scats").

Even in places where they are at their most numerous, Pine Martens are thin on the ground compared with other carnivores like foxes, stoats and badgers.

Pine Martens can be very playful and curious in their behaviour and can become quite trusting of humans.

They breed only once a year. Mating takes place in July or August, but the female's pregnancy does not begin until January. (This delayed implantation also occurs in the badger.)

A litter of about three babies is born in late March or April. At birth, the young are blind and covered in a coat of yellow-white hair which changes to grey, and then to brown as they mature.

The babies spend at least six weeks in the den before they venture out, and the family stays together until they are six months old.