The pine marten is one of the very valuable fur animals. In the European part of the Union, hunters annually harvest tens of thousands of pelts of this predator.
Marten is widespread from the northern border of the light forests of the Murmansk region to the beech forests of Ajara. It goes beyond the Urals in a small number and has no commercial value there. Her whole life is closely connected with the forest, where she finds both shelter and food for herself. The animal prefers broad-leaved and mixed coniferous-broad-leaved forests; small-leaved forests avoids. The marten reaches the highest density in the mountain forests of the north-western Caucasus. Outside the forest marten does not inhabit.
The composition of the food of pine marten is very diverse – it is a veritable multi-eating predator. The lack of one food is always filled by the presence of several others. The food of the males is somewhat different from the food of the females. Forest rodents, small birds and insects are of great importance in feeding the animal everywhere. The proportion of boron game and white hare in the marten’s diet drops from north to south. The degree of the carnivorous nature of this predator falls in the same natural way and in the same direction, but the proportion of vegetable feeds – fruits, berries, nuts – increases.
The value of squirrels in the food of marten is exaggerated. Only in the zone of coniferous taiga, and then only in winter, 44.5 percent of the produced martens in the stomach were found to have protein residues. In summer, the pine marten almost never catches squirrels. In the diet of the Lapland and Caucasian martens protein is extremely rare – not more than 2-3%, and yet they feel excellent there.
Our special studies have shown that the pine marten in the coniferous taiga zone does not significantly influence the fluctuations in the squirrel abundance. Only in years when there is little protein, and there are many martens, the latter can noticeably affect the protein stores. Usually, the decline in the number of squirrels is caused by a lack of basic feeds – seeds of conifers.
The pine marten, as a rule, is quite a settled animal. She has lived for years within the limits of “her own” forest area. The area of forest area she needs, depending on her forage, ranges from 1-3 to 10-25 square meters. km Opinion about the nomadic lifestyle of the pine marten is caused by the annual autumn settlement of the newcomers.
Fluctuations in the number of forest martens occur slowly and are small. Years of particular abundance are observed once every 9-11 years and are caused by a particularly favorable combination of a number of reasons.
Streaming and mating occur in July, sometimes dragging on until the end of August. Only a fraction of martens is capable of breeding in the second year — 35–55% of the total number of females of this age. In the third year, all martens breed. Pregnancy lasts 236–237 days and is divided into two periods. The first, lasting over 200 days, is called latent (hidden). At this time, the embryos barely develop and are not yet attached to the walls of the uterus, the second — a period of intensive development — is always limited to 27-28 days.
Young born in late March – early April. But there are cases of earlier genera. In litters there are from 1-2 to 7-8 pups, usually 2-5, and an average of 4. Larger litters are observed in favorable years.
Mortality of young stock is quite high: to the beginning of the harvest, the young of the year make up only 39 to 58% of the total marten population. However, it is impossible to fully rely on these figures: the presence of juveniles may depend not only on the size of the annual increase and the magnitude of infant mortality, but also on the degree of industrial growth of the older age groups.
Martens live up to 14-16 years, but their average life expectancy in nature is much shorter. In the upper river. Pechora number of martens older than two years was only 12, in Tatarstan – about 25 and in the north-western Caucasus about 13%.