martes americana humboldtensis
Description: Cat-sized with a luxurious light-brown coat, yellowish chest “bib”, triangular ears and a long tail. The Humboldt marten is a member of the weasel family and a subspecies of the American marten.
Habitat: Loves remote coastal forests where brush is thick and trees are big. These foragers live independently, establishing a “home range” that may cover hundreds of acres. They won’t cross a clearcut and they require old growth-type habitat to den and rear their young.
Endangered Species Act Listing status: A “threatened” status listing was proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in October 2018 but has not yet been confirmed. The Marten is protected from fur trappers in California but not in Oregon.
Threats: In the coastal ranges of Oregon and California, logging and wildfire are devastating the marten’s vital old-growth habitat. Marijuana farms also encroach on this habitat while exposing the marten to rodent-killing poison. The low numbers of martens create another threat: lack of genetic diversity to help the marten adapt to changing conditions.
Estimated population: Fewer than four hundred survive in isolated populations on the northern California coast, along the coastal Oregon/California border and in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.
Superpower: Seed dispersal. The marten is typically ravenous and omnivorous, enjoying a rodent feast as much as a snack of leaves or berries. Seeds tend to pass through their gut intact, and in one study of its parent species, the American marten, seeds actually germinated more successfully after passing through the digestive system of the marten. Because of the marten’s ability to travel miles in a day, as well as their ability to eat up to a quarter of their body weight daily, they provide a critical service to the many berry-bearing plants in the coastal KS region!
What’s being done? The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has rejected a proposal to list the marten as an Endangered Species once before, and the proposal currently under consideration contains a major loophole that would allow logging in Marten habitat anyway. Still, passing the proposal might be the Marten’s only hope.
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