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American Martens in Northern New England

pine marten2 by Laurie Stokes

American Martens (formerly Pine Martens) are making a comeback in northern New England. On New Hampshire’s Threatened Species List, and on Vermont’s Endangered Species List, American Martens are rebounding from the effects of habitat loss and trapping in the early 1900’s, but are still considered rare. This medium-sized member of the weasel family is slightly larger than a Mink and smaller than a Fisher, and often has a light orange bib, or throat/chest patch. Lighter fur usually is found on their head and along the edges of their ears. In addition to a pair of scent glands, which all weasels have, American Martens have a glandular area on their lower abdomen that exudes a musky-smelling, oily secretion used for scent marking.

American Martens spend a lot of time in trees. Their semi-retractable claws help them climb and hang onto branches. In addition, their hind limbs can be rotated at the ankle (like Gray Squirrels) to allow them to descend a tree very quickly, and their long, bushy tail helps them balance.

Because they store very little fat, martens must hunt every day. In the winter they are active for about four hours a day (14 hours/day in the summer), and during this time consume an average of three voles or the equivalent amount of chipmunks, birds or other small rodents. A sighting of an American Marten is a highly-prized experience. (Thanks to Laurie Stokes, whose photo of a Pine Marten was taken in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.)

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22 responses

  1. Joan Ray

    I live in Maine now, but when I lived in Colorado I met a pine marten when hiking near treeline. I say met because we spent several minutes, just feet apart, looking at each other and checking each other out. Eventually she (he?) satisfied her curiousity and wandered off. I could have spent much more time standing there communing with this gorgeous creature. I will never forget this moment.

    February 3, 2016 at 8:09 am

    • I envy you that experience!

      February 3, 2016 at 8:35 am

    • john mullane

      Wow! Thanks for sharing.

      February 3, 2016 at 10:01 am

  2. David

    I had a similar experience years back here in the Adirondacks. I came across a marten on top of a big stump. We did the mutual staring game for quite a while and then the martn scurried off. They sometimes come to bird feeders here – beautiful creatures!

    February 3, 2016 at 8:52 am

  3. Jo Peavey

    Everyone should have a Marten in their back yard to clean out the field mice and squirrels. Maybe you could keep a put one out back??


    February 3, 2016 at 8:54 am

  4. Kathie Fiveash

    What a beautiful photo. It captures the essence of wildness – and the fleeting moment when a human animal is privy to that essence.

    February 3, 2016 at 9:11 am

  5. Diane

    Never heard of a pine martin. Thanks for the information.

    February 3, 2016 at 9:14 am

  6. A perfect image and much appreciated post. Right up there on my hopeful encounters list with cougar and lynx!

    February 3, 2016 at 10:27 am

  7. Nice column, as usual, Mary. When I go to Canada and see martens up there, are they also called American martens?

    February 3, 2016 at 11:09 am

    • Yes, Canadians call them American Martens, but also Canadian Sables, American Sables and Pine Marten. All one and the same (Martes americana).

      February 3, 2016 at 1:23 pm

  8. There was a marten vacuuming the portch at the bunkhouse at Roaring Brook (Baxter Park) in February. I left out some gorp. He sorted through it, pushed the M&Ms, Wheat Thins, and malted milk balls off the porch, and ate the nuts and seeds. Discriminating!

    February 3, 2016 at 11:35 am

  9. k

    Beautiful little fellow. What a treat it would be to see him!

    February 3, 2016 at 11:54 am

  10. Jane Lucas

    On Wednesday, February 3, 2016, Naturally Curious with Mary Holland wrote:

    > Mary Holland posted: ” American Martens (formerly Pine Martens) are making > a comeback in northern New England. On New Hampshire’s Threatened Species > List, and on Vermont’s Endangered Species List, American Martens are > rebounding from the effects of habitat loss and trapping i” >

    February 3, 2016 at 12:18 pm

  11. I have seen only a couple….in the White Mtns. in N.H.

    February 3, 2016 at 12:58 pm

  12. Laurie Stokes

    I was so excited to see the Marten in your post this morning! Happy to share. It was a beautiful day and made even more special with the sighting of the Marten.

    February 3, 2016 at 6:36 pm

    • Thank you SO much for letting me use your photograph, Laurie. It got a lot of comments, and response, and I am so very grateful to you.

      February 3, 2016 at 8:33 pm

  13. Heartening news!

    February 4, 2016 at 9:39 pm

  14. GM

    Great info, thanks! Would we have many down here in MA? I see fisher tracks all the time, but maybe I’m mis-identifying them!

    March 2, 2016 at 8:57 am

    • At one time they were in MA, but no longer: “Extirpated; Formerly Central, Western, and possibly Northeastern Mass; last reported in Worcester County (1880) although 2 records in 1992 and 1993 may have come from Vermont”

      March 2, 2016 at 9:38 am

      • GM

        Many thanks! I use your book on a daily basis. I’m so grateful for your research!

        March 3, 2016 at 9:25 am

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