What was this marten up to? Do martens bite?

Hi,

I'm new to this forum, so I hope I've found the right place to ask my question

About a week ago in the late evening, I was sitting on the low wall surrounding our front yard. I closed my eyes to relax a bit... Suddenly, I heard the soft sound of little footsteps coming towards me. When I opened my eyes, I saw a stone marten about two metres in front of me. The moment I had opened my eyes, it had stopped moving. I was quite surprised! We looked at each other for five to ten seconds, then the marten turned around and ran away.

Up until that moment, I had only seen martens from a distance, so that was a very special encounter to me (and I've been really excited about it, to be honest!). But for this last week, I've also been wondering, what was that marten up to? I mean, it was definitely running straight towards me... I read that martens are quite curious and like to explore everything with their teeth If I hadn't opened my eyes, is it possible that the marten would have bitten me? Then again, I also read that martens are shy of people and only bite when they feel threatened... so I'm kind of confused!

I would be happy if anyone could offer any insight! Should I be more careful when sitting outside at dusk?

Regards,

Jana

  • I guess its worth asking on some forums or wildlife Facebook pages which cover the country that you live in - rather than a UK site where we have a very small distribution of Pine Martens - I myself have never seen one in the wild. Even so, I very much doubt that it would have just run up to you and bitten you.
  • Morning Jana,

    Do martens bite?

    Is the Pope a Catholic?

    As Bob says, you will probably get more and perhaps better answers elsewhere on the interweb.

    But as we have Stone (Beech) Martens in the garden nightly, I'd suggest that you were probably sitting on one of its routes. They have preferred paths for moving around, and can be very relaxed when they're on one of them. We've stood and watched a big specimen marking (in a reverie) for a good five minutes, just a few meters away.

    Identify routes from the position of droppings. Then you can probably sit out and observe them better (the martens, not the droppings).

    Incidentally, I had a similar experience many years ago with a young fox. And was in the middle of nowhere, so it was unlikely that the animal was particularly familiar with humans. 

    I turned around when he/she was just a meter away from me. Startled, the fox left in a hurry.

    Certain regular Community members live in marten territory. Perhaps you'll get more (and much better than my) advice, even here. 

    All the best - 

    Dave 

  • Seems to me that, as you were still and not a moving threat, then the animal was approaching with caution out of curiosity.

    It wouldn't have attacked you, well only if you had seemed to attack it.

    You'll be fine sitting outside - well, I'd be more careful of human beings approaching you!
  • In reply to rspbailey:

    rspbailey said:
    Seems to me that, as you were still and not a moving threat, then the animal was approaching with caution out of curiosity.



    It wouldn't have attacked you, well only if you had seemed to attack it.

    You'll be fine sitting outside - well, I'd be more careful of human beings approaching you!

    That was more or less what my response would be.

    Any animal with teeth will bite if it feels threatened, even birds will stab/peck if threatened, so the answer would be yes. However, as you stayed calm, the stone martin was curious as to what/who you are and if there was any threat to it.

    Staying calm like that is a good way to observe nature, but don't get too complacent.

    Mike

    Flickr Peak Rambler

  • In reply to Mike B:

    Yup. Even Red Squirrels will bite you when you handle them.

    Although they only have small, cute, squirrely teeth.

  • If this was me I would be working out just where I could sit to watch these fantastic mammals. Many years ago when working in Scotland I would spend the weekend staying in a small b & b where the lady put food out to encourage Pine Martens, the UK equivalent of your Marten. Most nights we could watch them from the kitchen window but even at that distance they would vanish if they saw or heard us.

    Pete

    Birding is for everyone no matter how good or bad we are at it,enjoy it while you can

  • Oh, and if you see a marten looking at you with its mouth open, I think they have a vomeronasal organ. So, it will be forming a clearer picture of you through its nose, via its mouth. Rather than weighing up which part of you to eat first.

  • In reply to Seaman:

    Good point, Pete. If you know where they go (and they're generally creatures of habit), you know the best position.

    If we've ever a cat out after dark (very rare that, as we always aim to have them in before dusk), we get to sit out and watch them.

    Our neighbour has seen our adopted, semi-stray cat eating out of a bowl shoulder to shoulder with a smallish female Beech (Stone) Marten.
  • In reply to Seaman:

    Wendy S said:
    If this was me I would be working out just where I could sit to watch these fantastic mammals. Many years ago when working in Scotland I would spend the weekend staying in a small b & b where the lady put food out to encourage Pine Martens, the UK equivalent of your Marten. Most nights we could watch them from the kitchen window but even at that distance they would vanish if they saw or heard us.

    Me too.

    Though for many, and we would have been there ourselves many years ago, it is that first encounter that you never expected and catches you unaware and strikes you with awe.

    Nature is very inquisitive, mainly from a survival perspective, and it soon learns what to trust and what not to.

    Mike

    Flickr Peak Rambler

  • In reply to Mike B:

    When I was working in Scotland it was pretty full on so I found this little b&b on the Ardnamuchon peninsula and I would pop along there on my little motor bike for a bit of relaxation and Eagle watching The Martens were a real bonus.

    Pete

    Birding is for everyone no matter how good or bad we are at it,enjoy it while you can