American Martens are one of Wisconsin's rarest endangered species. They are small in size and look very similar to fellow members of the weasel family. In fact, they often get confused with Fishers and Stone Martens who also live in Wisconsin. American Martens are slowly disappearing; this is a problem on the rise that needs to be addressed.
American Martens have been on the endangered species list in Wisconsin since 1972. Currently, this species lives primarily throughout Canada and Alaska. They also live within the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the Rocky Mountains in southrn Colorado, several East Coast States and in in the northern parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. The DNR published data on American Marten populations in Wisconsin counties. The most recent estimate of the Nicolet County population was taken in 2005 and it showed that there were only 282 of these animals left. The Nicolet population is currently stable; however, the Chequamegon county population is steadily decreasing.
The population of American Martens in Wisconsin has been decreasing since the arrival of European settlers, trappers, and lumbermen. The species was annihilated in Wisconsin by 1940 due to trapping - which was banned in 1921 - however reintroductions followed shortly after.
This species tends to flourish in the dense forests of Northern Wisconsin. They thrive in cooler climates, although they can survive in warmer climates as well. You can typically find them in forests with a mix of trees such as white pine, yellow birch, maple, fir, and spruce. Forests with fallen trees and stumps provide the perfect amount of prey and protection.
During certain parts of the year, American Martens feed primarily on wild fruits; however, when they are not feasting on fruit they are mostly carnivorous. American Martens look for mice and other small rodents for their main food source, but they also eat birds, squirrels, fish, and nuts. Most of the time they hunt on the ground even though they live in the trees. This species requires large amounts of food for energy due to their fast metabolism.
For Martens as young as two years of age, mating season is between July and August. During these months, male Martens get very aggressive and may fight one another. Both male and female Martens may mate with multiple partners during this time. Female Martens carry their kits for about nine months. The fetuses develop rather quickly and are born in late March or April. Females give birth to about four kits at a time.
American Martens are very active at night, although they tend to be very shy during the day. They are excellent climbers, and thus they can catch animals such as red squirrels and chipmunks. This species has a lot of interesting habits and they never fail to surprise us. If we continue to cut down trees and dirty our environment, animals like American Martens will become extinct, and we will lose a fascinating member of Wisconsin wildlife.