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Pine marten (Martes) 207012 Peter Cairns (rspb-images.com)24/02/2009

Gorgeous in its chocolate and yellow-buff fur and nimble as a squirrel when it moves, the pine marten is an ace tree-climbing predator. It’s becoming more widespread again in Scotland after near-extinction, but is always scattered in small numbers and hard to see.

What to look for

As with many British land mammals, you’ll more often see signs of pine marten presence than the creature itself. Droppings on tracks - narrower than fox ones and often thicker than a cat’s - can vary in their contents at different times of year. In autumn, some can be almost entirely made up of rowan berries. In snow, look for big prints, all four paws placed around a single point if the marten has been bounding. An adult can be bigger than most domestic cats.

Interesting facts

Pine martens nearly became extinct in Britain in the 19th century because of persecution by game-rearing interests. The spread of commercial forestry helped them to recover, giving them expanded woodland cover and breeding space; Martens are happy to live in close proximity with people and sometimes den in lofts.

When and where to see

You can find signs of martens on trails at any time of the year. Strongholds are in the woods along the west coast between Argyll and Torridon and in the pinewoods of the central Highlands.

For displays that give the low-down on marten life, visit the Ardnamurchan Natural History Centre and the Glenmore Forest Centre or for a good chance of seeing pine martens in the wild, book an evening in Speyside Wildlife’s hide near Aviemore.

Find out more about pine martens at Trees For Life.