Thursday, March 3, 2011

Wildlife Watcher Program Begins: Volunteers Look for American Martens

Brian Kelly, Restoration Coordinator

Jennifer Schwartz of HCPC applies marten lure to attract American martens to a monitoring site high in the Blue Mountains. Photo by Greg Dyson.

On a recent Saturday, I found myself snowshoeing and skiing in a high-elevation forest in search of the elusive American marten. Over a foot of new snow had fallen during the previous few days, and tracks were scarce. But our main mission for the day was to install motion-activated cameras in habitat where martens were likely to be found.

The American marten (Martes americana) is related to the European pine marten (Martes martes) but they are two distinct species. Nonetheless, you will sometimes hear the American marten referred to as the pine marten as well.

American martens are small forest carnivores and members of the weasel family. They are found in mature and old-growth forests and are considered a management indicator species for our region. Confirming the presence of species like marten can inform land management decisions that affect our public lands. Martens and other wildlife depend upon quality habitat for their food and shelter and ultimately for their survival. Fragmentation of wildlife habitat is a serious problem. The data that we collect will be helpful toward insuring that marten habitat will be preserved throughout the region.

In February, we established three marten monitoring sites in the Elkhorn Range of the Blue Mountains. We scouted out areas in suitable habitat and selected sites that are dispersed across the landscape. We marked the GPS coordinates for each spot to help re-locate them. Last Saturday, volunteers and HCPC staff returned to the sites and installed a motion-activated camera at each location. We left some bait and applied attractant known as “marten lure” to increase the odds of catching a marten in a photo.

Volunteers will return to the marten monitoring sites to look for tracks, maintain the cameras, bait and lure, and take notes to document everything. Would you like to join us in the search for martens? If so, contact me at or call 541-963-3950 extension 24. We will be re-visiting these sites regularly for several months.

Special thanks to the Burning and Charlotte Martin Foundations, Patagonia and the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative for helping fund this project!

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