Mast, mice and pine marten (Martes martes): the pine marten’s reproductive response to wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus) fluctuations in the Netherlands
Mast production of beech (Fagus sylvatica) and common oak (Quercus robur) have been found to be synchronous, with annually alternating patterns of high and low production between 1993 and 2013. We found this to be the case in the Netherlands where the fluctuations in the Veluwe and the neighbouring central areas of the country were the same as in Drenthe, in the north of the country. Wood mice (Apodemus sylvaticus) show an immediate and high numerical winter response following an autumn of high mast production, and they are a main source of prey for pine marten. Our study, of a total of 372 litters of pine martens (Martes martes), found that pine martens responded to years of peak wood mouse abundance with significant larger litters, as a result of relatively higher numbers of litters with four and five kittens. Their litters were also born about one week later in years of low wood mouse numbers. The female pine marten seems to adapt different hunting behaviour during pre-weaning according to the density of wood mouse. In years of low wood mouse abundance the duration of females’ hunting bouts are longer than in years of high wood mouse densities.