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  • Subject area(s): Science
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  • Published on: 15th October 2019
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Erin Carpenter

Bret Michalski

FW 251 - Wildlife Conservation

American pine marten (Martes Americana)


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Description: American pine marten is apart of the weasel family and is an aloof critter. It is around 2 feet long, males end up around 2.5lbs and females tend to be 1.5lbs (age and location have influence over size as well) (4). American marten have a triangular head with appointed nose, they have a silk-like fur that can have a hue of yellow, tan or black. Their throat and chest are normally “pale straw to vivid orange”. Lifespan of American martens can be up to fifteen years old (8).

Breeding Biology: They breed towards the end of July and August, food is readily available at this time of year. The kits are born in the spring (March or April), typically three to four are in a litter. (4) American marten are sexually mature at the age of one-year-old, they typically don’t breed until they’re two though. Females can produce until they are twelve in the wild. Adults keep to themselves except to breed typically, and have more than one mate. Depsite mating in the summer, the embryo implantation is deferred until the end of winter. Females stay in their dens to shelter the kits (8).

Distribution (Range): Martes Americana has a broad distribution across northern North America, from the most northern tree line to northern New Mexico and from Newfoundland to California. North of the United States it’s range is consistent but in the United States they stick to mountain ranges that provide ideal habitat. A Marten’s home range varies on gender, age, weather, individual health, and food availability. “Year-round daily movements in Grand Teton National Park ranged from 0 to 2.83 miles, averaging 0.6 mile… One American marten in south-central Alaska repeatedly traveled 7 to 9 miles overnight to move between 2 areas of home range focal activity.” (8) Areas that are logged typically correlate with critters having a larger home range than unlogged areas. (8) “Home-range size was correlated positively with the amount of regenerating forest and body-condition index scores were lower during winter, indicating that these spatial and temporal attributes were influential. Although martens utilized low-elevation forest with extensive timber harvesting, contiguous, mature, and rugged high-elevation forest was used preferentially during winter.” (5)

Habitat: American pine marten primarily enjoys evergreen forests (4), mixed coniferous-deciduous forests but deciduous areas make up a large proportion of American marten habitats in central and eastern North America (8). The American pine marten traditionally has been associated with old-growth forests, but recent studies show they are found in younger forests as well. Charles Vigeant-Langlois and Andre Desrochers investigated this critters movement behavior relating to local prey activity (tracks) and tree stand age. “We georeferenced 34 marten tracks (57 km), associated prey tracks, and subnivean forays in a balsam fir forest of southern Québec, Canada.” Marten movements were more convoluted/windy in areas with high numbers of prey tracks and near subnivean foraging spots. The windiness of the Marten’s movement didn’t correlate with age of tree stands after considering prey activity. This made Vigeant-Langlois and Desrochers believe the American marten doesn’t hunt primarily in old-growth forests but seems to focus its hunting in zones where prey activity is high. (7)

Habits (Food, Does it hibernate? Migrate? Ect…): The American marten has some interesting habits. American marten doesn’t hibernate; they move according to where their food is. They stick to higher elevation during the warm season and moves down during snowy months. “High-elevation forests that contain mature, closed canopy stands are considered important habitat for American martens (Martes americana (Turton, 1806)) in the northeastern United States. To investigate this hypothesis, we monitored 15 radio-collared martens over a 2-year period and measured spatial use, as well as second and third-order resource selection, from 33 seasonal home ranges and 889 telemetry locations. The population was composed primarily of adults that had small home-range size with average seasonal fidelity. During leaf-off seasons, martens selected against regenerating forest at both scales and selected for mixed wood and softwood forests and areas with rugged terrain within home ranges. Second-order selection was less pronounced during leaf-on seasons, yet martens exhibited greater selection for hardwood forest and areas with rugged terrain within home ranges. Land managers should minimize disturbance of montane ecosystems to ensure population viability for martens and other boreal forest species along distributional edges” (5). This critter eats a wide range of things; voles and mice primarily are its sustenance. Being great tree climbers, they pillage nests in the canopy of the forest, typically at night (4). Part of the reason for this is that they are quite nocturnal (9).

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