American Marten

The American marten lives in the cold northern pine forests of Canada, ranging from Newfoundland in the east to the US state of Alaska in the west. Martens also live in the high-altitude mountain areas of the continental United States, where conditions are similar to the cold north. The fur of the American marten is highly valued, and although the species is not endangered, hunting and the destruction of its conifer-forest habitat have caused a severe decline in numbers in many parts of its range.

The American marten has a long, slender body, and large eyes and ears. The fur on the head is light brown or grey, while the legs, tail and upper surface of the body are dark brown or black. The underside is pale yellow or cream.

American martens spend the day in nooks and crannies in the forest, and move through the trees and along the ground in search of food at night. To compensate for the low light levels, martens have large eyes, and large ears (for a mustelid) that resemble those of a cat. They kill their prey with their long, curved claws and sharp teeth. Their diet includes small mammals, carrion, fruits and insects.

Young martens are born in spring. Animals of breeding age locate each other by scent, releasing a strong odour from their anal glands. They live alone for the rest of the year.

Distribution: Canada to northern California and Colorado.

Habitat: Pine forests.

Food: Small mammals, carrion, fruits and insects.

Size: 32 - 45 cm (12.5 - 18 in); 0.3 - 1.3 kg (0.75 - 2.75 lb).

Maturity: 2 years.

Breeding: Up to 5 kits produced in March or April.

Life span: 10 years.

Status: Lower risk.