An animal that I’ve been missing in the garden throughout Winter, and that I’m rather impatient to record again, is the Beech Marten. In fact the last recorded visit I have is dated 29th September last year.
This is quite a long gap and I took a moment to go back and look at the sightings I have previously made. In total, over 2 years I have had 15 sightings, so it is only a very small number on which to make an analysis and to draw any conclusions. But I was bored, lockdown, so I did it anyway.
I looked at the distribution of visits throughout the year.
What this very basic graph shows is that I’ve never actually seen a Beech Marten in the garden during the Winter (December-January). According to this data, I reiterate it is a very small sample size, they mainly visit in the Summer.
The territory of a Male Beech Marten, the area over which it will roam, is much bigger than that of a Female. It is also true that for both males and Females the Winter territories are much smaller than the Summer territories. They roam much less in the Winter.
Suggestions of actual territory size vary, different studies have come up with different results based on different locations. However a mid-range estimate for a Male Beech Marten is that the winter territory could be around 50 Hectares with the summer territory 4 times bigger, 200 Hectares. To give some idea of scale, a football pitch, which is the standard measure for these types of things, rainforest loss, etc, is 0.8 hectares. So the Summer Range is the equivalent of 250 football pitches. For even more context my back garden is 110m2, which is 0.01 hectares, it’s small.
Understanding that I have never been visited by a Beech Marten in the Winter, I could, I’m going to, conclude that my garden is within the big Summer range of an animal but outside of the smaller Winter Range. I’ve had a go at showing this on a map.
Firstly to give some context and scale. I’m living in Chatou, a suburb outside of Paris itself. It is kind of ‘Greater Paris’. Chatou is located to the West of Paris in one of the bends of the River Seine. It’s more or less surrounded on three sides by the river.
The map below is a zoom on Chatou and I’ve indicated the rough location and indeed the size of my Garden with a tiny red dot.
Onto this map I’ve made an attempt to show the possible Summer and Winter range of a Beech Marten.
This is pretty much to scale with the large Summer range covering a size of 200 Hectares or 2,000,000m2, the range of a single male.
As you can see it’s massive, this is an animal not much bigger than a domestic cat. I may be disappointed to only have 15 visits over 2 years but seeing the vast territory over which the Beech Marten roams it feels like a miracle that I get any visits at all.
This then led me to thinking about Hedgehogs, again Males roam over a much larger area than Females.
Estimates still vary but a male territory could to be around 32 Hectares. I made a map of this too.
For Females a territory size of 10 Hectares is a good guess, and at this scale we start to see my garden quite clearly.
Even for female hedgehogs the area is big, covering many gardens in the immediate vicinity. It is worth saying that hedgehogs are not very territorial, several animals will roam in overlapping areas and the territory of a male will contain many female territories. Also an animal will not roam over all of its’ territory every night.
The first conclusion I take from all this is amazement that, considering the distances over which they roam, I get any Hedgehogs or Beech Martens visiting my garden at all. Although obviously I try and tilt the odds in my favour by providing food, drink and comfy beds.
The other point is that I’m sure, like many people, I often think of the Hedgehogs visiting the garden as ‘my’ hedgehogs. In reality, even though they linger for food and the occasional nap, they probably only spend a few minutes every night in my garden, as they do in each of my neighbours’ gardens. Perhaps my neighbours also feed them and think of them as ‘their’ hedgehogs.
But of course they’re not. They’re wild and they roam, really quite far.