Daryl L. Hunter's Photo Portfolio and Gallery

Greater Yellowstone Pine Marten

American Marten, Pine Marten
Greater Yellowstone Pine Marten or American Marten
To By Pine Martin photos go to The Hole Picture Photo Gallery

Life is full of surprises; you will rarely find a grizzly bear photographer as thrilled as when they get the opportunity to photograph a Pine Marten or long tail weasel during the course of their pursuit of photographing grizzlies. Grizzlies are easy for them to find, to get the opportunity to photograph a Pine Marten or a weasel it is a rare event.

Pine Marten, American Marten

Greater Yellowstone's American Marten or Pine Marten as they are colloquially know around here is a North American member of the family Mustelidae (Martes americana). The name "Pine Marten" is derived from the common but distinct Eurasian species of Martes.

Pine Martens are cat-size and slender with long, dark, chestnut-brown fur and a bushy tail with a distinctive creamy-yellow throat. The tail is long and fluffy and is about half the length of its body. Their head is usually lighter in color than the rest of their body it has large rounded ears, a roughly triangular head and sharp nose. A big male American Marten will be 20 or so inches long and weigh around two to three pounds. Compared to other carnivores, Pine Marten population density is low for their body size.

Young Martens or kits are born around April. They will each adult size about three to four months of age although they don't really mature until they are about two years old. The mother will have two to three kits each time she has her babies. When they are born, the kits are naked, blind, and deaf. Life span: may reach 10 years or more in the wild

American Marten, Pine Marten

The Marten lives in mature coniferous or mixed forests in Alaska and Canada, the Pacific Northwest of the United States and south into Northern New England. For all their apparent lushness, the boreal and subalpine forests actually have a low net primary productivity; a fancy way of saying that food is not plentiful for predators like the marten. The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is the largest intact ecosystem in the lower 48 states hence we have a healthy population of Pine Martens.

These elusive, and generally nocturnal animals normally hunt through the night and especially at dusk and they usually hunt alone. The Marten may be active as much as 60% of the day in summer but as little as 16% of the day in winter. Males and females will tolerate each other's presence, though both will defend their territory from other martens of the same sex.

A very agile predator, they climb trees easily, grasping the trunk firmly, digging in their claws and bounding upwards with jerky movements. The Marten can jump from treetop to treetop without breaking a limb or falling to the ground. This is because of their lightweight and their strong claws that enable them to grab hold really well. The Martin is one of the few predators agile enough to catch a squirrel probably because they are equally frenetic. If they fall, their supple body twists to land safely on all four feet from as high as 20 yards! This little critter does most of its hunting on the forest floor; however, and is not very particular about what it will eat. Its dietary staples are mice, voles, shrews, frogs, fruit, small birds, rabbits, insects, and other small prey, but a hungry Marten will eat nearly anything it can catch or find. Martens, however, obtain most of their food on the ground, and they hunt for small mammals, birds, insects, berries, birds' eggs, and carrion.

Pine Marten, American Marten

Martens have very few enemies besides humans. The Pine Marten is broadly distributed in northern North America. Despite habitat loss or fragmentation and related problems, the Pine Marten still inhabits much of its historical range. From north to south, its range extends from the northern limit of tree line in Arctic Alaska and Canada to northern New Mexico. From east to west, its distribution extends from Newfoundland to California. In Canada and Alaska, its distribution is vast and continuous. In the western United States, Marten distribution is limited to mountain ranges that provide preferred habitat. Over time, the distribution of the Marten has contracted and expanded regionally, with local extirpations and successful recolonizations occurring in the Great Lakes region and some parts of the Northeast The Pine Marten have been reintroduced in several areas where local extinction had occurred.

Anyone who comes across any of these cute little creatures ought to feel real fortunate as it is a rare event.

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