California Declares Humboldt Marten ‘Endangered’

This is a press release from the Environmental Protection Information Center:

Charlotte Eriksson / Oregon State University

ARCATA, Calif.— In response to a petition from conservation groups, the California Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously [last week] to protect the Humboldt marten under the state Endangered Species Act.

The Environmental Protection Information Center and Center for Biological Diversity petitioned for the secretive carnivore’s protection in 2015.

A relative of minks and otters that dwells in old-growth forests, fewer than 200 of the cat-like animals survive in California in Del Norte, Humboldt and Siskiyou counties. Humboldt martens have lost more than 95 percent of their historic habitat to logging.

“We celebrate the state’s decision to protect the marten and also plan to continue watchdogging unsustainable forest practices that the state could exempt from protection that would undermine the recovery of this special animal,” said Tom Wheeler, executive director of the Environmental Protection Information Center.

“Humboldt martens are the wild heart of the Pacific Northwest’s ancient forests, so I hope state protection will be a first step toward their recovery,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Losing these fierce, incredible little creatures to extinction would be unforgivable.”

Humboldt martens were once common in the coastal mountains from Sonoma County north to the Columbia River in Oregon, but trapping and logging decimated and separated populations. Today there are just four small surviving populations, two on national forest lands in Oregon and two in Northern California. The animal is so rare it was considered extinct until it was rediscovered in the redwoods in 1996.

In California martens are threatened by ongoing logging of mature forests, loss of closed-canopy habitat to wildfires and rodent poison used in marijuana cultivation. They are at high risk of extinction because of small population size and isolation by unsuitable habitat as they are reluctant to cross open areas. Martens that try to cross clear cuts face high rates of predation from bobcats and coyotes that hunt in open areas.

Humboldt martens are under review for federal Endangered Species Act protection, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is under a court order to publish a decision on their protection by Oct. 1.

A slinky member of the mustelid family, martens weigh just a few pounds and grow to be 2 feet long with large, triangular ears and a long tail. They eat small mammals, birds, reptiles, insects and berries, and are eaten by larger mammals and raptors.

Mark Linnell, U.S. Forest Service

Mark Linnell, U.S. Forest Service

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8 comments

  • Oh my gosh, they are so cute!

    • Yes they are, but I think this article is BS. I saw one of those critters running along the shoulder up highway 299 near Buckhorn summit, out of Redding. This was before the Carr Fire started. However, this article may very well be true for Humboldt, thanks to large pot growers.

      • Are you sure that it wasn’t a Fisher you saw? Martens are pretty small. And secretive.
        Although I question that the martens are strictly old growth habitues.

      • Considering they were believed to be extinct in the 1980’s it is pretty easy to conclude that it was 140 years of raping the redwood forest by logging companies and ignorant loggers who would kill ancient trees for $80 per day in wages. These critters were also trapped for their akins by ignorant hunters who love nothing more than to kill critters.

  • Has anybody seen a porcupine?

    • Not in 10 years. I imagine that some dogs manage that just before their trip to the vet.

    • Not a live one but my friend’s dog found a very dead one to roll around before a long car ride. So they’re out there hiding in a nice den somewhere.

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