Cretan Fauna

Marten

Cretan marten
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The Cretan stone marten (scient. Martes foina bunites) is a beautiful arboreous, nocturnal, carnivorous and fruit-eater mammal that lives alone (except for the mating season) in rock fissures, in tree hollows, in abandoned nests, in desert underground galleries, in sparse forests, in bushy places and in gorges.

It has an oblong body (up to 55 centimeters) with short legs, while its tail can reach 30 centimeters. The Cretan marten color is dark beige, while its limbs and muzzle are darker, dusky. It has white strips in the neck and a sharp, blond muzzle with sharp triangular teeth and whiskers at the upper lip, not very big ears and bright, clever eyes. At the feet it has claws as gimlet as the cat’s, which enable it to climb up trees and catch small birds that it likes.

Its food mostly consists of hares, rodents, mice and rats, but also worms, eggs, fruits and, of course, hens. It stays hidden during the day and at night it starts its activity for the search of food. It sets an ambush and attacks animals that constitute its prey. It approaches without any noise mostly when they are asleep and strangles them by biting them at the neck.

The female after a pregnancy of 9 months gives birth to 3-4 youngsters in March or at the beginning of April, places them in a tree cavity or rock recess that it has filled with moss and takes care of them. After a few weeks they follow their mother in climbing and hunting.

In Crete about twenty years ago the weasel’s fur had a great commercial value, that’s why it faced the danger of extinction. Nowadays it is no longer hunted and thus their population has much increased. We find it all over the island, as well as in Karpathos, the Cyclades and the Sporades. We often encounter them in the streets at night or at day struck dead by night cars.

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