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Learn About Wisconsin's Only Endangered Mammal

Pine martens are recovering in Wisconsin after nearing extinction because of over-trapping and habitat loss. These furry, agile weasels are seeing a population upturn as environmental officials take steps to secure the pine forests they call home.

Pine martens, also known as American martens, are nocturnal weasels that are excellent climbers. Agile, fast, and small, females are 18-22 inches and stand almost six inches high, about three-fourths the size of the male. Females weigh about two pounds, and males can weigh up to three pounds.

Pine martens have soft, thick, and dense fur, perfect for the cold Wisconsin winters. They are yellow to reddish-brown and have bushy tails that extend the length of one-third of their bodies.

Pine martens mate between July and August. Female martens give birth to two to four babies called kits. Young martens leave to find their territories after three to five months of care. Pine martens cover a lot of land and hunt in their area. Males cover more land than females and hate when other males are around their territory.

Pine martens are omnivores that feast on small rodents, birds, bird eggs, insects, fruits, and nuts. They have a high metabolism and need much food to sustain their energy.

Pine martens are endangered in Wisconsin due to poaching, and their environment is becoming scarce. Their endangerment was worse in the 1920s. However, conservation groups have been trying to save these species from extinction by protecting forests like Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, and the marten population has grown since their efforts.

In 2010, surprising news came from the Apostle Islands: martens lived in that area. The Apostle Islands, known for their rugged shores, sea caves, and old-growth forests, have become homes to these tiny creatures. After rediscovering pine martens in the Apostle Islands, it became an important area for researchers to study.

The pine martens’ return gave hope to their admirers and their researchers. Despite their resurgence, there has been little contact with these fluffy creatures. Occasional sightings have sparked hope in many researchers. Though their population is small, with enough awareness and effort, they will come back!

[Sources: Northwoods Star Journal, Wisconsin DNR, UW-Madison Forest and Wildlife Ecology, National Park Service, EEK Wisconsin]

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