This section is from the book "The Balance Of Nature And Modern Conditions Of Cultivation", by George Abbey. Also available from Amazon: The Balance Of Nature And Modern Conditions Of Cultivation.
The Marten (Martes (Mustela) sylvestris or M. foina), Fig. 9, is included in the Mustelidae or Weasel family, the body being elongated and slender, legs short, feet provided with five toes, armed with sharp claws. The marten breeds in hollow trees, and produces from three to seven young at a birth.
Arboreal in habits, climbing trees with great ease, the marten frequents the larger ranges of woodland in preference to the open country, and is an expert at catching birds, robbing nests of young as well as eggs, a great enemy of squirrels, particularly their young, hence a benefactor to the forester in woods, especially beech and pine, but very destructive to game, both ground and winged; also visits farmyards, killing poultry, and pigeons. It, however, destroys mice, moles, rats, and voles, and it is said to be fond of honey, and to even eat fruits and grain. The fur of the marten bears some resemblance to that of the sable, but is inferior to it, though a considerable number of skins are imported into England from the North of Europe.
The Pine Marten (Maries abietum) inhabits the pine forests of continental Europe, and is not, as formerly supposed, a British species. It is of smaller size than the common marten, with a yellow mark on the throat, and has a finer fur, which is used for trimmings. The Polecat, Foumart or Fitch (Mustela putoria), Fig. 10, like most other members of the Mustelidae, has an elongated body and short legs, muzzle shortened, skull triangular, neck long and flexible, ears small, eyes large, and the senses of smell, hearing, and sight very acute. The anal glands which are placed close to the base of the tail secrete a fluid of highly unpleasant odour, disagreeably permanent in contact with clothing or other material. The adult measures from 16 to 18 in., and the tail 4 to 5 in.; fur dense in the under-coat outer; and hairy, of a yellow colour, with the tips of the longer hairs dark brown; edges of ears and fur surrounding lips white. The young, produced in spring, number three to five.
Fig. 9. - The Common Marten.
The foumart inhabits woods and hedgerows, living in burrows, and lining the nest with dried grass or similar material. It is very destructive in game preserves, partridges and pheasants, hares and rabbits falling victims to its blood-thirstiness, while its ravages among fowls and ducks, geese and turkeys (young) are appalling, for it kills only to suck blood and eat brains, leaving the bodies and flesh untouched. Fish, particularly eels, also fall a prey to its rapacity, while mice, rats, and voles are speedily destroyed by it. The fur of the polecat is worn under the name of "fitch," the Scotch skins being regarded as the finest.
Fig. 10. - The Polecat.