Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Pine Marten dell

Our maintenance team have recently finished work around our natural amphitheatre, the dell, which we have been using quite regularly over the last year and a half for keeper talks etc. Wooden benching has been built around the dell to create more areas to sit and watch the many displays we now do there. Several flying routes have been picked out for our Owl display, every open day at 4.00pm, but most excitingly we have extended our pine marten run system to en corporate all 4 enclosures, the two oak trees and the perimeter of the dell.

Pine martens are extremely solitary animals, quite aggressive towards each other and an aggressive courtship too. This makes them very hard to breed in captivity. We have had 3 years in a row now of successful pairings, and we think it is due to our run system. Originally it linked one of our males pens to the 2 female pens, thus allowing non-direct contact to each other and their scents. Knowing that there were other pine martens around all year we believe made the introduction process a little easier on them.

With its success we have extended the runway all around the dell, the trees and the enclosures and have a system of slides to cut the runs off in different ways. This allows any combination of the martens to have access to the run without direct contact to each other, and can be changed easily as we see fit.

Currently I have allowed one of our male martens, Clyde, to have access to the whole system. He is the most likely to explore it quickly, and will scent it as he goes, this should encourage the others to be a bit braver in trying out their new home when they have their turns.
After that I will shut the system into 2 areas, one half for Bonnie and Cylde, the other for Hamish and Buttons, all in anticipation for the breeding season this Summer.

Not only does the extended runways help with the introduction for breeding, it also enriches the pine martens giving them more enclosure space, looks quite impressive and really makes you feel like you are in amongst them when you are standing in the dell.

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