Martens May Be Returning To The Pennsylvania Wilderness

The Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) is considering reintroducing the American marten (Martes Americana) back into Pennsylvania woodlands.

Once a common sight throughout Pennsylvania, American martens have all but disappeared from the Commonwealth in the early 1900s. Experts attribute the loss to deforestation and unregulated harvest. As part of the 2020-23 Strategic Plan, the Bureau of Wildlife Management has completed a feasibility assessment reviewing current habitat suitability, future climatic impacts, interactions with other species, and public opinion. They have deemed that reintroducing martens will cause minimal impact to other species, including predators.

Also known as the American Pine Marten, martens are members of the weasel family. They typically weigh between 1 and 3 pounds and measure between 19 and 27 inches in length. The color of their fur can range from yellowish to brown to near black. Martens can easily be identified by their large rounded ears, short limbs, bushy tails, and “bibs” across their necks which differ in color from the rest of their bodies. Martens are omnivores. Most of their diet consists of plants, insects, and small mammals like voles, mice, and shrews, although they have been known to prey on snowshoe hares, particularly in the winter when food sources may be scarce.

The PGC lists ecological, political, social, and cultural aspects as reasons for reintroducing martens back into the wildlife population, which a large majority of Pennsylvanians support. The Bureau of Wildlife Management believes the reintroduction would likely be successful based on the assessment. According to the PGC, the next steps are identifying optimal release sites, potential source populations, and providing specifics on translocation methodology, research and monitoring, cooperative partnerships, and long-term management. Once completed, the plan will be open for public review and comment before being presented to the Board of Commissioners for final approval.

The Bureau of Wildlife Management’s assessment is available here.

More information on American martens is available here.

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