American Marten

Description:
The American marten is an arboreal member of the weasel family of mammals. It has a slender body, short limbs, and claws that are well designed for climbing. It has a bushy tail, a flat head, a sharp nose, long ears, and black eyes. Its fur is soft, dense, yellowish-brown, darker on the tail and legs, and lighter on the belly. There is a pale buff patch on the throat. Martens shed their thicker winter coat each spring, as a thin summer coat grows in. The Newfoundland population (Martes americana atrata) is a larger, darker subspecies of the American marten.

 

Biology:
Newfoundland martens reach sexual maturity at 15 months of age. Breeding occurs once a year. Births occur in the spring. Litters contain 1 to 5 young. Estimates of home range areas are 38 km sq. for males and 14 km sq. for females. Studies of foraging behaviour and diet have indicated that small mammals such as red-backed voles and meadow voles are major components of marten prey, and that the restricted availability of prey on the island of Newfoundland may be limiting the marten population. A study within the confines of Terra Nova National Park found red squirrels, meadow voles, and snowshoe hares to be the major prey items of resident martens.

 

American Marten Range Map

Population and Distribution:
The Newfoundland population of the American marten was once found throughout the island of Newfoundland, but now occurs only in small pockets of suitable mature forest habitat, primarily in the western part of the island. The Newfoundland population has been declining since the beginning of the century. Between 1980 and 1983, it was estimated as being composed of 630 to 875 individuals. According to a 1998 population estimate, there are approximately 300 American marten in Newfoundland. A small population has been introduced into Terra Nova National Park in eastern Newfoundland.

 

Habitat:
Newfoundland martens prefer mature and over-mature coniferous and mixed forest, though burned and open canopied forest with adequate vertical structure may also be used. In a 1997 study, open habitats were significantly avoided by martens, disturbed habitats were selected to a significant degree, and all other habitat types were used in proportion to their availability.

 

Threats:
The decline of the Newfoundland Marten has been attributed to excessive trapping and habitat loss due to logging and fires. Logging continues to be a major threat in most of the remaining marten habitat. Human disturbance, accidental captures in traps and snares set out for other species, predation, disease, and limited prey availability are additional contributing limiting factors.

 

Protection:
The American marten's habitat is protected and individuals are protected against such activities as harassment, capture, trade, and killing by the Newfoundland government, to the point where a minimum viable population can be maintained. Commercial trapping of Newfoundland martens has been illegal since 1934. There continue to be accidental captures in traps and snares set out for other species, since the marten is extremely easy to trap. The Newfoundland government created a Marten Study Area in the vicinity of Little Grand Lake in 1973, where all trapping and snaring is forbidden.

 

Recovery efforts:
Recovery Plan Status: National Recovery Plan was published in 1995; update is in development; 3 issue-specific action groups have been formed

Plan Goal: to increase the wild marten population in Newfoundland to a level at which it will not be at risk of imminent extinction or extirpation.

Long-term Objectives:

- establish or maintain three short-term, individual fall populations of at least 50 martens each;
- protect against the possibility of extirpation of the marten at Little Grand Lake (western Newfoundland);
- develop and apply a landscape-scale habitat and population assessment model;
- increase public awareness through public education and habitat stewardship programs;
- improve wildlife-harvesting methods to reduce incidental mortality;
- develop and/or modify forest-harvesting guidelines and planning processes to reflect our improved understanding of American marten ecology and habitat requirements.

Summary of Research/Monitoring Activities:

- 1993: conducted field surveys; updated information on the marten's distribution; completed a study on winter habitat selection in the Little Grand Lake area; introduced the Western Newfoundland Model Forest Program to integrate forest management and sustainable development in the marten's range.
- 1994 - 1996: conducted research on the carrying capacity of old-growth forests, and on the use of residual stands of second growth forests by the marten.
- 1994: developed a marten population persistence model.
- 1995 - 1999: conducted the Pine Marten Demographics Study in the Little Grand Lake and Red Indian Lake areas to examine the rates of cause-specific mortality, productivity and recruitment, habitat selection, and the effects of habitat fragmentation.
- 1996 to present: developed the marten habitat suitability index model; conducting a radio-collaring and monitoring study in Terra Nova National Park (TNNP), gathering information on marten in black spruce forests and monitoring additional marten translocated from the west coast to TNNP on the east coast in late winter.
- 1997 - 1999: conducted a study on the effects of modified wood harvesting on martens; as part of a strategy to curtail accidental snaring, a snare was developed that would trap hares but not martens.
- 1999 to present: conducted a distribution study using a series of bait stations to outline the distribution and density of animals in areas outside current known range; investigated the distribution of marten in and around Main River and Gros Morne National Park; conducted field surveys to determine the distribution of the red-backed vole.
- 2001: initiated a study of the effectiveness of modifying harvest strategies and techniques in reducing accidental snaring and trapping mortality at Red Indian Lake.

Summary of Recovery Activities:

- 1993: conducted public relations work on the American marten.
- 1996: launched captive breeding program at Salmonier Nature Park.
- 1998: introduced two American marten into remote parts of TNNP, where no marten occurred; modified snare and trap made mandatory in two parts of the island.
- 1999: established a system of reserves in the Little Grand Lake area to protect the species and its habitat -- the reserves total about 1500 km and could support over 100 animals; continued the mandatory use of modified snares and traps in two areas of the province important for the recovery of the species; enforcement efforts resulted in a number of charges and convictions of violators; introduced four marten into an area outside TNNP thought to be suitable for marten; reached an understanding with a number of forest managers and industry representatives to protect certain areas in the near future required to maintain viable populations of marten; produced a number of mock modified snare setups and placed them in highly visible areas.
- 2000: initiated a stewardship initiative in the Red Indian Lake area; developed regulations for three reserves in the Little Grand Lake; sponsored two workshops, one to review habitat management guidelines, and the other to discuss the issue of accidental snaring and trapping.
- ongoing: the Newfoundland Marten Education Committee produces pamphlets, brochures, and displays to increase public awareness of the species; working to increase the acceptance of the modified hare snare aimed at reducing incidental mortality; developing a web-based education program, “Adopt a Marten.”

Summary of Progress to Date:

There is an increased understanding of the demographics and habitat ecology of the American marten. Three zones are now set aside where only modified snaring and trapping can occur: the Corner Brook-Grand Lake area, Red Indian Lake, and the Terra Nova area. Only a modified snare or trap which will allow marten to escape, or not be caught, can be used in these zones. People caught in these areas using an unauthorized snare have been charged and convicted. Marten are still being held at Salmonier Nature Park for captive breeding. In 1999, captive bred marten were born for the first time at the captive breeding facility at Salmonier Nature Park. Unfortunately, no young animals were produced in 2000, but in April 2002 at least one litter was produced. Additional opportunities to use the marten being held at the Nature Park for research and educational activities are being evaluated.

The workshop held in May 2000 to review habitat management guidelines resulted in a new set of guidelines being produced. Management agencies and resource users are being encouraged to use these guidelines in evaluating marten habitat and impacts to marten. The guidelines are currently being used in to evaluate the impact of proposed forest harvesting activities on potential habitat loss in the Main River area. This area appears to support a viable population of marten, but is also slated for some wood harvesting. In January 2001, a workshop looking at the issue of accidental snaring and trapping, a series of recommendations were made to the appropriate management agency regarding what should be done to reduce snaring and trapping mortality to an acceptable level.

In 2001, the development of a predictive landscape-scale habitat model for the American marten was initiated as part of the Pine Marten Demographics Study. The model will identify areas of potentially suitable habitat requiring forest management planning, allow managers to prioritize areas of likely presence for conducting population surveys, and to reliably predict population responses of marten to alternative forest management scenarios. Another new initiative includes conducting an island-wide habitat supply and population assessment and the development of an alternative "rabbit snaring device" to reduce accidental mortality of marten.

Objectives for 2002-2003 and beyond:

- revise the definition of marten habitat based on analysis of habitat use data collected by the Pine Marten Demographics Study;
- continue monitoring the eastern sub-population centered near TNNP;
- continue annual monitoring of the Main River subpopulation;
- develop a predictive habitat model for marten and use it to develop an island-wide habitat and population assessment tool for the marten;
- develop alternative snaring and trapping devices to further reduce incidental mortality;
- establish an eastern region working group to deal with long-term habitat planning for the eastern subpopulation;
- update the recovery plan;
- continue discussions with forest managers on how to take into account marten habitat requirements in the forest management planning process;
- increase compliance and awareness in areas where the modified snare/trap are now mandatory;
- expand the education and stewardship programs.

LITTLE GRAND LAKE RESERVE SYSTEM
The Little Grand Lake reserve system encompasses 1,496 square kilometres. It is located approximately 20 kilometres southeast of Corner Brook and involves three different levels of protection: a wildlife reserve, a public reserve, and a provisional ecological reserve. The provisional reserve is extremely significant since it protects the intersection of three ecoregions (Western Newfoundland Forest, Central Newfoundland Forest and the Long Range Mountains) and the habitat required for a core population of marten, considered essential for the continued viability of this species in Newfoundland.

PROVISIONAL ECOLOGICAL RESERVE (742 sq km.):
- includes the area surrounding Little Grand Lake and extends northeastward, along with a section of the western shoreline of Grand Lake;
- is administered under the Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Act;
- is considered the highest level of protection available for the core marten area;
- contains habitat sufficient to support about 50-60 marten.

PUBLIC RESERVE (178 sq km.):
- includes Glover Island which is administered under the Crown Lands Act;
- mineral exploration and development will be allowed to continue;
- guidelines to minimize the impact on the endangered marten will be developed;
- hunting, except for snaring and trapping, will be allowed to continue;
- allowance will also be made for scientific research and management of the marten;
- cutting and most general crown land uses will be prohibited.

WILDLIFE RESERVE (575 sq km.):
- will be established under the Wildlife Act and consists of two areas: one south and the other north of the provisional ecological reserve;
- mineral exploration and development may occur within the reserve but under permit;
- limited wood harvesting may occur in the southern part of the reserve, under permit only;
- regulations governing these and other activities will be written to minimize impact on the endangered marten;
- some activities such as wood harvesting (with the exception of commercial activity in the southern section) and snaring and trapping will not be allowed to continue.

THE PUBLIC RESERVE ON GLOVER ISLAND
The public reserve will be established under section 8(2) of the Lands Act. It will be approximately 178 square kilometres of which 123 square kilometres is forested.

 

Recovery Team:
Joe Brazil (Co-chair)
Inland Fish and Wildlife Division
Newfoundland Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation
Box 2007
Corner Brook, NF
A2H 7S1
tel: (709) 637-2356
fax:(709) 637-2004
JoeBrazil@mail.gov.nf.ca

Brian Hearn (Co-chair)
Natural Resources Canada
Canadian Forest Service
Box 960
Corner Brook, NF
A2H 6J3
tel: (709) 637-2356fax:(709) 637-2004
Bhearn@nrcan.gc.ca

- L. Bateman, Sir Wilfred Grenfell College
- J. Bissonnette, Utah State University
- D. Brain, Abitibi Consolidated
- P. Deering, Terra Nova National Park
- O. Forsey, consultant
- D. Harrison, Dept. of Wildlife Ecology, Univ. of Maine
- G. Jennings, consultant
- J. Lemon, consultant
- L. Mayo, consultant
- M. McGrath, Newfoundland Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation
- L. Moores, NF Dept. of Forest Resources & Agrifoods
- L. O’Driscoll, Salmonier Nature Park
- G. VanDusen, Corner Brook Pulp & Paper Ltd.
- G. Yetman, NF Dept. of Tourism, Culture and Recreation

 

References:
- Forsey, O., J. Bissonette, J. Brazil, K. Curnew, J. Lemon, L. Mayo, I. Thompson, L. Bateman and L. O'Driscoll. 1995. National Recovery Plan for the Newfoundland Marten. Report No. 14. Ottawa: Recovery of Nationally Endangered Wildlife Committee, 31 pp.
- Forsey, O., J. Bissonette, J. Brazil, K. Curnew, J. Lemon, L. Mayo, I. Thompson, L. Bateman, and L. O'Driscoll. 1995. National Recovery Plan for the Newfoundland Marten. Report No. 14. Recovery of Nationally Endangered Wildlife Committee, Ottawa. 29 pp.
- Gosse, J. 1997. Habitat use and home range characteristics of marten in the Terra Nova National Park / Greater Ecosystem Study Area of eastern Newfoundland. Terra Nova National Park unpublished report, 14 December 1997. 20 pp.
- Lemon, J. 1996. Second Updated Status Report on the American Marten, Marten americana atrata, (Newfoundland population) in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. 18 pp.
- Snyder, Joyce. 1986. Updated Status Report on the Newfoundland Pine Marten, Martes americana atrata, in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. 42 pp.
- Skinner, W.R. 1979. Status Report on the Newfoundland Pine Marten, Martes americana atrata, in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. 14 pp.
- Worrall, S., J. Gosse, J. Brazil, and P. Deering. 1997. The recovery of Newfoundland Marten in the Greater Terra Nova Study Area. Report to Environment Canada and the World Wildlife Fund, the Endangered Species Recovery Fund, December 1997. Unpub. 6 pp.

Web site:

National recovery plan:
http://www.cws-scf.ec.gc.ca/es/marten.html

 

Date Note:
Last assessment based on an existing status report.