Martens are extremely active in May and June due to their territorial behavior. A recent AXA survey shows that the risk of marten damage is particularly high in Eastern Switzerland. Marten damage throughout Switzerland costs approximately CHF 40 million every year. There is a particularly increased risk for vehicles that have been stationary for a long time.
Cars parked outdoors overnight are a favorite target for martens, especially in May and June when their territorial behavior is particularly strong. They hide in cars, mark their territory and love to nibble on wiring or tires. At AXA, the average amount of damage caused by martens is around CHF 440. This is a manageable amount, but annoying all the same if a car doesn’t start or is at risk of an accident because a brake cable has been chewed. Cars that have been stationary for a long time are easy prey for the predators.
A survey for the last five years shows that certain regions are comparatively badly affected: in the cantons of Appenzell Innerrhoden, Thurgau, St. Gallen, Jura and Glarus, the likelihood of marten damage is particularly high, the risk being up to 70 percent above the Swiss average. In relation to a car, this means that marten damage can be expected roughly every 30 - 35 years.
By contrast, car owners in the cantons of Geneva, Valais, Nidwalden and Obwalden need to worry much less about the chewing predators, as the risk of marten damage is 60 to 70 percent lower in these cantons than the Swiss average - they can only expect marten damage roughly every 175 years. “As the most common type of marten in Central Europe, stone martens only appear in Switzerland at medium elevations. This means significantly fewer animals live in a mountainous canton compared to lower lying areas”, says Fredy Egg, Chief Claims Officer at AXA.
Martens not only have regional preferences, they also seem to be choosy when it comes to car brands and type of vehicle: they particularly like nibbling on Skoda, Seat, Ford and VW brands. They seem to target brands such as Smart, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and BMW much less often. “Obviously martens are not interested in brands - it’s more a question of the vehicle’s design and particularly access to the engine compartment”, says Fredy Egg.
As well as passenger cars, martens also like making a nuisance of themselves in recreational vehicles (RVs). These are often outside for a long time which tends to make them susceptible to marten damage. Delivery vehicles are also a favorite target for predators: although they’re parked overnight outside the owner’s home, they are out doing deliveries in various locations during the day. This means that these vehicles can be unknowingly driven from one marten territory to another.
Regardless of the brand and type of vehicle, caution must be exercised when parking a vehicle outdoors. “The best protection against marten damage is still a closed-off garage”, says Fredy Egg. Blocking access to the engine compartment or securing particularly at-risk car parts can also help alleviate this situation.
However, if marten damage does occur, it is covered by comprehensive or partial accidental damage insurance. This specifically includes damage from bites and any consequential loss. As Switzerland’s largest car insurer with a market share of more than 20 percent, AXA pays out more than CHF 7.5 million every year for marten damage. AXA estimates the extent of marten damage throughout Switzerland to be around CHF 40 million per year.