MARTEN, the name originally applied to the pine-marten (Mustela martes) but now used for all members of this genus of carnivorous mammals (see CARNIVORA). Martens are confined to the temperate and subtropical parts of the northern hemisphere, save for one species which extends to Java. They inhabit wooded and rocky localities and climb trees with facility. They are largely carnivorous in diet and have a blood-thirsty disposition. All the species yield valuable fur, but those from the far north are the most esteemed, especially when caught in winter, since the fur is then longer and denser. They are usually captured in "deadfall" traps, in which a log of wood is so arranged as to fall on the victim when it interferes with the bait.
The pine-marten is a rich dark brown in colour, reddish-grey beneath, with a yellow breast spot. It varies in length from 2— 21ft., inclusive of the tail, and is distributed throughout northern Asia and Europe, including the British Isles, where, however, it is very rare.
The beech marten (AI. foina) is lighter in colour, more southern in range than the last, and is confined to Europe.
The sable (M. zibellina), very like the pine-marten, is the most valuable fur-bearer of the group. It inhabits eastern Siberia. The North American marten (Af. americana) is closely allied to the sable, which it resembles in habits and appearance. It is shy. The pekan (M. pennanti) is larger and more stoutly built. It inhabits North America as far north as Alaska and the Great Slave lake, not extending south beyond the 35 N. parallel. It is blackish in colour and reaches a length of 4f t.
Another species with black and orange fur (Al. flavigula) in habits India and extends into Java.