American Marten -- Martes americana

On boxing day, an American Marten, Martes americana, showed up in our front yard, clearly looking for his Christmas dinner. He was a little too frantic — bounding from bird feeder to feeder, exploring, terrorizing the red squirrels, etc. — to allow us to get any photos. But his appearance, gives us the excuse to post these pictures taken last March.

2003 December 26

photo of American Marten on bird feeder suet cage

An American Marten, Martes americana, hanging from a suet cage suspended above our front deck. The picture was taken through our living room window.

Martens occasionally raid our bird feeders in winter. This requires that we hang the suet up in wire cages suspended by clothes-line cable.

photo of American Marten on bird feeder suet cage

Anything less than a wire cage to house the suet and it would be quickly ripped down and dragged away.

While the marten's preferred habitat is climax coniferous forests and they avoid burned-over or logged areas, their presence locally shows that old growth forest is not an essential component of their habitat. The local forests are extensive mixed coniferous / deciduous, but certainly not old growth. Clearly martens show some flexibility in their habitat choice.

photo of American Marten on bird feeder suet cage

Note the size of the feet and the claws.

We have also seen locally (once!) the marten's smaller relative, the ermine, but we have yet to see his larger relative, the fisher, although we are within its range. While the fisher gets a lot of bad press, especially by cat owners, I would love to see one.