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Help, martens have invaded my car!
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Help, martens have invaded my car!

3 min. 15.09.2017 From our online archive
If you’ve ever considered urinating on your own car engine, you probably need some serious psychological help. Unless, of course, it’s the desperate last-resort action you’ve taken to stop martens from invading your car.

If you’ve ever considered urinating on your own car engine, you probably need some serious psychological help. Unless, of course, it’s the desperate last-resort action you’ve taken to stop martens from invading your car.

My interactions with cute, furry animals are usually limited to zoos and Facebook posts showing a bunny washing its whiskers, or a dog and kittens becoming lifelong friends. Since moving to Luxembourg, however, I’ve noticed these long, thin, ferret-like creatures roaming the streets in my village at night. What I didn’t realise was that they have been looking for a bed for the night, and that bed has been under the bonnet of our car.

Here’s what happened. My husband usually parks his car on the road outside our house. Last week, before heading off to pick up the kids, I noticed the screen wash had run out, and when I got home, I dutifully refilled it. Then I tried it out. Nothing happened. How could that be?

I lifted the bonnet and discovered that the rubber connecting tube had been cut. It must have been vandals, I thought, or thieves, or those naughty kids at the end of the road. But then I wondered, how could they have even lifted the bonnet? And why would they have done nothing more than snip a tube?

After further inspection, I uncovered a piece of chewed rubber, about the size of a small mouth, lying on the engine. Aha, I deduced – so something has bitten it! At last came the small moment of wonder when you learn something you thought you never would. My ‘vandal’ had actually been a marten, which apparently loves to nibble at any rubber tubing or wires that get in the way of a good night’s sleep.

Millions of euros of damage

After a quick online search, I discover that, in Germany, “Marder” cause €64 million in damage to cars every year. Indeed, martens are the third-most frequent insurance claim in the country.

I quickly contact my insurance broker, who tells me, much to my surprise, that the damage will be covered by my insurance following a technical inspection. Wow. Who’d have thought Luxembourg insurers have “feral-biting” on their list of possible insurance claims?

What’s more, these little sharp-toothed cuties can do much worse than bite through your screen washer. They’ve been known to nibble on spark-plug wires and coolant hoses and crunch through brake hoses and ignition wiring. Electric hybrid cars, with all those additional wires, are the most susceptible to costly damage.

Martens are drawn to the warmth of the car’s engine and bite on cables to get them out the way of a comfortable night’s sleep or to mark their territory (this is my engine! no one else try to sleep here!). Earlier this year, the Wort reported that three baby martens were found in an engine compartment in Niederanven, so, in addition to a hotel, your car can double up as a maternity ward.

Protected species

It appears there is little we can do about these critters. Ultrasonic devices and things that give martens an electric shock only work to a limited extent. They are also a protected species, for those of you who have more menacing ideas.

One piece of online advice states that martens often spray on the engine to mark their territory, and this attracts more martens to your car/hotel. It suggests that you urinate on your car engine to mark it in much the same way.

Can’t imagine what the neighbours would say if I asked my husband to lift the bonnet and relieve himself on the engine. Would they think it was a strange foreign autumn tradition? Forget apple picking – in September, we like to wee on our cars!

In the end, duct tape came to the rescue, together with a large amount of air freshener. Our car now smells of orchid and lavender, but at least that's better than "eau de toilet". Some advice is better left unheeded.

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(Sarita Rao, wort-en@wort.lu, +352 4993743)