Lots of people will look at them and see a cute face, a bit like a cat, and the kind of cuddly, furry body your kids would love to keep as a pet.
See what I mean?
But make no mistake : this "cuddly" creature delights in killing. Trust me, I know - I have had a total of ten chickens, one of them a massive Wyandotte rooster, killed by a pine marten.
It's sometimes hard to tell what's responsible when a predator strikes, but most do leave tell-tale signs. A fox, for example, will generally leave a pile of feathers but no body. The chicken becomes dinner for adults and cubs alike.
A marten, and any other member of the stoat family including weasels, mink and the raccoon, tends not to kill for food but for fun. More often than not you'll find the carcass of the chicken still in the run.
It's one of the things that makes these kills so hard to take - having any chicken killed is not easy to deal with, but at least when they're taken by a fox you can rationalise that it's part of the food chain.
With a marten that's not possible because usually, it isn't.
Martens are omniverous, so they do eat both vegetable and animal matter, but their meat diet tends to be small mammals like mice and voles. They will eat small chicks if they get the chance but tend to leave adults alone once they've killed them.
There are different types of marten. The European pine marten, whose official name is 'martes martes', is a protected species which inhabits scrubland and in particular (as its name suggests), wooded areas.
Both the pine and the beech marten are common in Scotland and most of Europe, and the pine marten has recently been re-introduced into England, Ireland and Wales to help control the spread of the grey squirrel.
The north American marten's name is 'martes americana'. It's found throughout the North American states and Canada.
Martens are territorial animals and their territory usually covers two or three miles, so once you have one in your area it will be very hard to get rid of it. They're also clever enough to know that where there's one chicken there will be more - so if you have one pine marten attack, expect them to be back for more.
This is the graphic part.
If you find chickens whose heads have been ripped off their body, it's highly likely you've been subject to a pine marten attack.
Martens are climbers, and not big enough to carry a carcass up and over a fence, so the chicken is likely to be left behind.
It's a very, very unpleasant sight, and of course a very distressing thought that chickens have died such an unpleasant death.
This is a question I have had to answer for my own coop and run, and it's not an easy one. Martens are diggers, so ...
Martens are also very accomplished climbers : they have been timed scaling a two metre (six foot) fence in just three seconds. So the top of the fence also needs some form of protection.
Here are a few ideas :
Other basic things to consider are :
Although the pine marten's habitat has been detroyed in many parts of North America, it is not a protected species. However, in some states where it's become extinct, conservation initiatives have been introduced.
However, it's important to know that in many countries, including the UK and Ireland, where pine and beech martens are relatively rare, they are a protected species. It's illegal to kill, trap or harm them, or to destroy their habitat.
Protect your chickens by deterring martens by all means - but stay within the law.