Classification: Fur Bearing Wildlife Species
Other Names: American marten, pussy marten, pine marten, American sable.
Status: Valuable fur animal. Lives in areas remote from civilization. Official Montana furbearer managed and protected by regulated fur harvest seasons.
Identifying Characteristics: This house cat-sized animal is distinctly weasel-like in appearance. Has short legs, prominent ears, pointed face, and well-furred tail constituting one-third of its total length. Stiff glossy guard hairs with dense silky underfur. The soft, dense, yellowish-brown fur shades to dark brown on its bushy tail and legs. Pale buff to orange patch on throat and breast. Has ability to rotate hind limbs to enable descending trees head first.
Total length: 21 to 26 inches. Weight: 1.5 to 2.75 pounds.
Habitat: Primarily a boreal animal preferring conifer or mixed wood forests. Uses deadfall and snags as den sites.
Food Habits: Eats a variety of animal and plant materials associated with the mature forest. Is an opportunistic feeder that primarily feeds on a variety of small mammals.
Life History: Spends most of its time in the trees and is primarily nocturnal. Dens in hollow logs and trees. Mates during summer with young born during April. Exhibits delayed implantation and 8 to 9 month gestation. Average litter is 2 to 4.
Similar Species: Mink - has white patch on chin. Fisher - larger, dark brown, grizzled head and back. Red fox - white tip on tail.
Marten are woodland animals. American marten are sometimes confused with the European pine marten and the Russian sable, both of which are different species of martens. Uncontrolled fires, clear cutting lumber practices and trapping pressures caused a significant decline in marten populations from the late 1800's to the 1940's when trapping seasons for martens were closed in most states and Canadian Provinces. Since that time protection and the reintroduction of martens into acceptable habitats has proven to be a great success. Martens are currently present in 17 states and harvested by trapping in 10 states.