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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: California | North Coast | Animal Liberation | Environment & Forest Defense
California Endangered Species Act Protection Sought for Nearly Extinct Humboldt Marten
ARCATA, Calif.— The Environmental Protection Information Center and the Center for Biological Diversity today petitioned the California Fish and Game Commission to protect the Humboldt marten under the California Endangered Species Act. The Humboldt marten is a cat-sized carnivore related to minks and otters that lives in old-growth forests in Northern California and southern Oregon. Most of the marten’s forest habitat has been destroyed by logging, and the remaining martens in California likely number fewer than 100 individuals. Consequently, California’s Humboldt martens are at grave risk of being lost entirely from the state.
“California’s Humboldt martens have been eliminated from 95 percent of their historic range,” said Rob DiPerna, EPIC’s California Forest and Wildlife Advocate. “Survival and recovery of the marten demands immediate action.”
The historic range of the marten extends from Sonoma County in coastal California north through the coastal mountains of Oregon. Once thought extinct, the Humboldt marten was rediscovered on the Six Rivers National Forest in 1996. Since that time, researchers have continued to detect martens in California, but also determined that Humboldt martens declined substantially between 2001 and 2008 and have not rebounded from that decline.
“The population size of the Humboldt marten is disturbingly low,” said Justin Augustine, with the Center for Biological Diversity. “We hope the commission works quickly to protect this species and help rebuild a viable marten population in California.”
The Fish and Game Commission has 10 days to refer the petition to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The department in turn has 90 days to make its recommendation as to whether the petition presents substantial information indicating that protecting the marten under the California Endangered Species Act may be warranted. After the department’s recommendation is received, the commission must make its own determination as to whether listing of the marten may be warranted. If so, the department will then have one year to conduct a more thorough status review of the marten.
Though fewer than 100 martens remain in California, last month the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declined to protect them under the federal Endangered Species Act. The Center, which petitioned for federal protection for the marten in 2010, plans to challenge the decision.
“The denial of protection is simply not a scientifically defensible decision,” said Augustine.
SAVING THE Humboldt marten
A stealthy, cat-sized forest carnivore in the weasel family, the Humboldt marten is so rare that it was thought extinct until rediscovered in 1996. Now, due to extensive logging of coastal old-growth forests in Northern California and Oregon — the only places it’s found — the marten has been eliminated from 95 percent of its historic range. Other threats to the marten abound, including wildfires and loss of genetic diversity due to population separation and a tiny overall population size. Fewer than 100 of these beautiful mammals are known to survive.
To make sure the Humboldt marten never slips out of human awareness again, in September 2010 the Center filed a scientific petition to protect the species under the federal Endangered Species Act. Although the U.S. Forest Service subsequently said protection may be warranted, the agency missed the deadline to make its next listing decision, so the Center filed a notice of intent to sue in April 2012.
Saving the marten means protecting its habitat and reestablishing population connectivity. Martens are secretive hunters that only move through dense shrub cover or areas with closed forest canopy, so extensive clearcutting has dramatically fragmented their range, isolating populations in Oregon and California.
HUMBOLDT MARTEN } Martes americana humboldtensis
DESCRIPTION: Martens have medium-length glossy fur that ranges from tan to chocolate in color, with a lighter-colored throat patch and underfur and darkly furred legs and tail. The Humboldt marten in coastal northwestern California are on the smaller end of the American marten size range, with an average weight of 889 grams for males and 598 grams for females. These martens are slender, 1.5 to 2 feet long, and have large triangular ears and a long tail.
HABITAT: Humboldt martens are very strongly associated with closed-canopy, old-growth forests with complex structure on or near the ground. Martens are known to avoid younger forests and open areas such as clearcuts, as well as fragmented areas. They will not cross large areas with low canopy closure. Martens also require old-growth elements for denning sites. Kits are weaned at 42 days, emerging from their dens at 50 days to begin foraging independently.
RANGE: In California, the Humboldt marten historically occurred in coastal forests from Sonoma County, California north to the border of Curry County, Oregon. The marten also once occurred throughout coastal Oregon forests. Today, the subspecies has been extirpated from 95 percent of its California range and exists only in west-central and extreme southwestern Oregon.
MIGRATION: This species is nonmigratory.
BREEDING: Martens mate from late June to early August, with most mating occurring in July; they give birth in March and April.
LIFE CYCLE: Martens can live up to 14.5 years in the wild.
FEEDING HABITS: Humboldt martens primarily eat small mammals such as squirrels and voles, but they also eat huckleberries, salal berries, birds, eggs, reptiles, fish, carrion and insects. Diet is both regionally and seasonally variable.
THREATS: The primary threat to the Humboldt marten is logging of old-growth and coniferous forests, which eliminates, degrades and fragments its remaining habitat. The animal is also at risk from small population size and low genetic variability, wildfire, predation, climate change and legal trapping in Oregon.
POPULATION TREND: This subspecies has undergone drastic decline. In California, it appears to have declined by more than 40 percent from 2000 to 2008. In Oregon, the marten has been lost through
Since 1977, the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) has defended Northwest California’s forests and wildlife, including the rare and incredibly adorable Humboldt marten.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 825,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
Press Release: June 1, 2015
Center for Biological Diversity
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Humboldt Marten Petition to the California State Fish and Game Commission