This is post 1 of 2 in "Connectivity for Wild Creatures."
In this series, we're profiling certain wild creatures who will greatly benefit from protected and connected landscapes across North America. You'll learn about American martens, foxes, and more, as well as what Wildlands Network is doing on the ground to protect these creatures and help them thrive. To learn more about our efforts, please explore our Wildways in the Rewilding North America tab. All posts in this series…
Interested in taking action for wild creatures like martens? Donate to our efforts to reconnect, restore, and rewild North America so that all life can thrive.
Length: 1.5 to 2.5 feet
Weight: 1.1 to 3.1 pounds
Lifespan: 12- 15 years
Relatives: weasels, ferrets, and badgers
American martens look very similar to weasels. Their bodies are long and slick, with coats ranging from dark browns to yellowish light browns. Martens typically have a grayish-colored face with a tail that is commonly darker than the rest of their bodies. Their throats and underbellies are often a light cream color, with cat-like ears, a pointed muzzle, and a triangular face.
Habitat Range and Population
American martens range from the Northwestern U.S., New England, Canada, the Rockies, and the northern corners of the Pacific Wildway in predominately mixed or coniferous forests.
During the 19th and 20th centuries, martens were voraciously hunted for their fur. Since then, several Canadian provinces and U.S. states have closed their trapping seasons for martens. Protection efforts and reintroduction plans for the species have been largely successful. Currently, martens are present in 17 states, though 10 of them still allow trapping.
However, despite martens’ presence in the U.S. and Canada, they still have not fully recovered enough to inhabit their historic range. While they are not endangered in the U.S. or Canada as an entire species, American martens have been extirpated or are endangered in some parts of their range. Their survival is still threatened by growing human populations and continuing deforestation.
American martens are omnivores, and their diet consists of squirrels, mice, small birds, insects, reptiles, fruits, and nuts. Predominately predators, American martens have a significant impact on prey populations. Much like apex predators, they are integral in helping structure the forest community to be well-balanced and not overrun by prey animals that potentially disrupt the growth of vegetation necessary for a healthy forest.
For American marten populations to grow and remain stable, forest protections and habitat connectivity are a necessity. Wildlands Network will continue to work on protecting forests that are crucial to wildlife habitats and supporting legislation that will increase habitat connectivity.
Currently in Oregon, where American martens are facing decreased populations due to fragmented forests, Wildlands Network is supporting state legislation that will help reconnect their habitats, thereby leading to greater genetic diversity and sources of food and water. We are also working to reconnect, restore, and rewild the region through our Pacific Wildway, so that all species in the region, including martens, can thrive in connected habitats.