Martens in the Mountains

Have you seen any martens? Kimberly Royar would like to know. Royar, a wildlife biologist who works out of the Fish and Wildlife Department office in Springfield, would be interested in hearing from anyone who has seen a marten in the slate.

Until 115 martens from Maine and New York were released, beginning in 1989, the last documented sighting in Vermont was in the 1940s. A few reclusive individuals may have survived in the boreal forest of the Northeast Kingdom.

Most of the recent arrivals were live-trapped in Maine and a few came from New York state. All have been ear-tagged and some were fitted with small radio collars that were designed to fall off in about six months. Before losing their collars, most of the animals surveyed within the Green Mountain National Forest. However, one wayward ear-tagged marten put on some miles before being killed by a car in Connecticut.

These two-to three-pound weasels were once found throughout New England, but clearing for agriculture forced them into smaller areas where they were easily trapped because they are more curious than wary. They are the same shape as fishers, but have a buffy throat and breast patch and are much smaller.

Fish and Wildlife did a habitat analysis before the release to be sure the Green Mountains could support a population of martens. Martens eat berries, insects, red-backed voles, red squirrels, snowshoe hares, and other small mammals. A mature forest of conifers is an essential part of their winter range. They hunt beneath the snow but need branches or large logs as entry ways to get below the snow surface. They love to climb trees and will den up when it is unusually cold.

Cameras with motion detectors are being set up near bait in the hope that someday little martens without ear tags will be photographed getting a free lunch.


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