Nature Canada

Get to Know the Pine Marten

The Pine Marten, also referred to as the American Marten, is quite the boreal forest animal.
The Pine Marten, also referred to as the American Marten, is quite the boreal forest animal.

Where do they live?

The American Marten (Martes americana) is found throughout Canada in mature boreal forests of conifers or mixed forests of conifers and hardwoods. A male defends a territory of 2.6-7.8 km2. He will cover this area in 8-10 days, hunting as he goes. A male will not allow another male into his territory, but tolerates multiple female territories in or intersecting his range. Generally, the female marten occupies a territory of about 2.6 km2.

What do they look like?

American Martens are long and slender animals, typical of the Mustelidae. The male measures 360-450 mm and the tail adds another 150-230 mm. They weigh between 470-1300 g. Females are slightly smaller and lighter, with head-body lengths between 320-400 mm and tails measuring 135-200 mm. They weigh between 280-850 g. The head is broad, tapering to a sharp nose. The eyes are large and black, and the ears are large and rounded like a cat. Martens have long, shiny, silky fur. The head is grey, legs and tail are very dark brown or black, the chest has a cream-colored patch, and the back is light brown. Befitting its arboreal tendency, the American Marten has sharp, curved and semi-retractable claws.

What do they eat?

With its high metabolism, the American Marten is often hunting. Its diet consists primarily of small mammals, including squirrels and rodents. As an opportunistic feeder, they will eat birds, fruit, nuts, insects, and carrion. However, the marten is also an aggressive predator, and can kill the much larger snowshoe hares and marmots.

How do they reproduce?

Except for breeding season, martens are solitary. Mating season is between June-August, and males may breed with more than one female. Once the 1-5 young (kits) are born in late March-early April, the females raise the young. They grow quickly and reach adult size at 4-5 months, at which time they leave the den. The females can produce litters from 3-12 years of age.

How long can they live?

American Martens can live for up to 17 years in captivity. In the wild, however, a marten is considered old at 9 years. Few predators can match the quickness and agility of the adult marten, although the young are vulnerable to carnivores like wolves or owls.

Some interesting facts

  • The Newfoundland Marten (Martes americana atrata) is classified as threatened under the federal Species at Risk Act and the Newfoundland and Labrador Endangered Species Act. For over 15 years, forest managers have been monitoring the health of this endangered species. To learn more about the endangered species in Canada, click here.
  • The collection of pelts and habitat loss due to forest product access and extraction caused a decline in marten populations in Canada and the United States from the late 1800s-1940s. Since then, forest management practices, re-introduction of martens in certain areas, and fur harvest management have improved the population health of the American Marten.
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