Defence against martens
How can I protect myself from damage caused by martens?
At first glance this little animal seems rather cute. But anyone who has a marten living in their roof or their car will not find anything particularly cute about the little creatures. Dead chickens in the chicken coop, torn roof insulation and sleepless nights due to the huge amount of noise they make will lead you to despair.
There are several approaches that can be taken to deal with these predators. To avoid marten damage in the future, it is important to understand their behavior in more detail. The following will explain what to look out for and show you deterrent measures you can take for your own marten problem.
Problems with martens
Problems start when the presence of martens is noticed. These little creatures can cause massive amounts of damage particularly during the pairing season (June to August) and during the breeding season (March to June). The males are particularly active and aggressive during the pairing season. If a male catches the scent of another, he sees it as a provocation and takes out his rage on cables, insulation and other objects. The marten will lay waste to the presumed hiding place of his rival in order to scare him off. Unfortunately, it is the engine compartment of cars that often suffers. Particularly cars that are parked in areas frequented by martens, and are thus marked with various marten scents, become victims of bite attacks. Bite damage tends to appear on cooling hoses, insulator mats and ignition cables, which is not only extremely annoying but also very expensive! The animals also leave behind a range of undesirable items. You can often find dead prey and bits of fur as well as remains of bread rolls or eggs in the engine compartment. Beech martens living the roof cause particular problems due to the somewhat large amount of noise they make. From June to August the loud and sustained mating games between the males and females can lead to sleepless nights. During the breeding season from March to June it is the babies and their excited squeaking, scurrying and scratching that keep residents awake. The destruction of roof insulation and biting through antenna cables and electrical lines results in high capital damages. Alongside the beastly smell of urine, faeces and the remains of their prey that they leave behind, the increase in flies and maggots creates further problems. It should also not be forgotten that martens, like other wild animals, are carriers of diseases such as rabies.
How can I be certain that my problem is due to martens?
Be aware of the following points to be sure that you are dealing with martens and not a fox, rat or cat:
Typical destruction includes damage to insulating materials in the roof, proper tunnels in the insulation can often be seen. Further damage can often be found in the engine compartment of cars. Plastic hoses, ignition cables and electrical lines are what tend to be bitten.
Noise disturbances generally occur at dusk and dawn. Scratching and scrambling noises, but also yowling and squeaking noises are typical for martens. These noises can get a little louder throughout the day during the breeding season from March to June.
The remains of their food can often be found. Small bones, feathers and eggs that have been bitten open will indicate martens. Household waste such as old bread rolls and traces of faeces can often be found in engine compartments. Their faeces (droppings) are around 8–10 cm long and 1–2 cm thick, usually in the shape of a sausage, and contains food remains like feathers and seeds from fruit. The droppings are often contorted into a spiral shape and taper out into a point at one end.
The characteristic smell associated with martens is made up of prey remains, faeces and urine traces as well as a very distinct scent that is secreted from their anal glands. All together this can make for a very penetrating smell!
The paw prints of beech martens are similar in size to those of a cat. The beech marten, though, can be recognised by the 5 toes and nails.
How to get rid of the marten
There are two sensible ways of getting rid of beech martens. Either scare them off and/or shut them out. Experts are agreed that the most effective method for scaring them off permanently is to use high-voltage electric fence systems.
Some people also try to capture the martens. Catching the animals is not particularly useful, however, as another marten will simply move into the now vacant spot. The new marten follows the scents left by its predecessor, and the problems start all over again.
try to avoid trying to scare off or taking any action to shut out martens during the breeding period from March to June so that the helpless baby animals do not become separated from their mothers!
To avoid unnecessarily attracting the animals, ensure that any rubbish is placed in securely closed bins and compost heaps in gardens are well covered. Do not leave too much bird seed lying around. It is also recommended to regularly pick up any fruit that has fallen from the trees. Some martens will keep their distance from cats that might be wandering around.
Startlers make use of various methods intended to make the marten feel less comfortable in its hiding place. This can be done using strong smelling materials spread around the engine compartment of the car or in the house roof. Martens are particularly sensitive to noises. Creating noise is therefore highly effective at scaring the animals away. Setting up a radio or irregular thumping around on the roof will disturb the animals and may look for a new hiding place. Experiments have shown that these methods tend to keep the animals away for a short period of time and can, over time, get used to radios or odour deterrents like urinal cakes, dog hairs or ammonia. The use of ultrasound startlers is a more reliable option. These emit constantly changing ultrasound frequencies that are very unpleasant for the animals and keeps them away. It takes significantly longer for the animals to get used to them, if at all, and the marten will have usually long since sought out a new hiding place before then. Ultrasound startlers are only effective when deployed in the open air, e.g. on a open roof top or in the garden. Walls and other building materials block the ultrasound signals. With some clever positioning of several devices, most areas can be secured.
The best protection is to stop martens from getting into the roof or car in the first place. All points of entry should be blocked up to prevent the animals from finding a way in. Temporary solutions using purely mechanical barriers can be used, e.g. mesh wire, steel plates or wooden boards.
To achieve long-term peace and quiet, only the installation of a physical barrier in the form of an electric fence will help!
Shut martens out of the roof
Before you start to close off the building, be absolutely certain that there are no more martens or their young remaining inside. Take particular care to check thoroughly during the breeding season from March to June. There's nothing worse than shutting out the mother, leaving her young to painfully starve to death. To scare the animals from the house, go into the roof space and make some noise. It is also worth installing an ultrasound startler. You will find out during the night if there are still any martens present. From dusk until dawn, the animals will wander up and down their territory looking for food. You should therefore undertake work to secure your house during this time.
First start by locating all entry points to the roof space and closing them off. Loose roof tiles and broken windows can be easily closed off using boards, metal sheets or mesh wires fencing with a 1–2 cm mesh. Be aware that martens can get through small openings that are not larger than a tennis ball. Entry points can sometimes be identified where there are signs of scratching, e.g. in the drain pipes or on an adjacent tree. However, it is unfortunately often difficult to determine exactly where the martens are coming in through.
putting some sand down around the house and adjacent buildings and trees can help you see where the martens are going. If the weather is dry and there is no wind, then flour or sawdust will also work. In the winter, you can look out for their trails in the snow.
It is estimated than 90 % of the time, martens are entering via the gutters. They usually reach the gutters using climbing plants like ivy, roses or vines or using nearby trees. As already mentioned, martens can also jump up to 3 m! Walls with a rough finish or walls with recessed joints can be easily climbed by these little predators. Drains pipes are also popular ways to climb to up to the gutters. Once the marten has reached the gutter they push up on the roof tiles or covering panels and gain access. Closing off all of these climbing aids is very difficult. In the short term it can help to cut back the hedges and trees and remove any wall climbing plants. However, martens will then usually look for alternative ways to get into their hiding place.
The only effective deterrent left is an electric fence. When it touches the electric fence, the marten receives an electric shock that is not dangerous to them but scares them enough that they avoid the building in future. By fencing off the house and entry points to the roof, beech martens will have no chance of getting back into their den and will quickly search out somewhere new. This makes the an electric fence the only solution that can bring long-term peace from these little predators!
You can find out how to best install an electric fence for defending against martens under the info point Anti-marten fence.