The Pine Martin of the BC coastal region
The pine martin is a carnivorous member of the weasel family. The martin’s coat is characterized by soft, dense fur which varies in color from tan to dark brown, being mostly black on the feet & legs. Lighter-colored martins tend to have grayish-brown tails, while darker animals have dark brown to almost black tails. The fur around the muzzle varies in hues, from gray to light brown, with a short, dark line running up the forehead from the corner of each eye. The martin’s throat and upper chest are a tan color.
The ears give pine martins a cat-like look. Martins vary in body length from 50 – 65 cm, not including the tail, which can be up to 20 cm long. They may weigh up to nearly 2 kg, males being larger than females. Martins have sharp claws which they use for climbing, as well as for holding prey.
Martins depend on voles and mice, a primary food source, found over much of Vancouver Island The second important source of food is berries, especially blueberries, followed by small birds, eggs, & vegetation. Martins will also eat squirrels, and if food is scarce enough, they will occasionally revert to cannibalism.
The martin is a an opportunistic feeder. Carrion, such as the remains of wolf kills, dead spawning salmon remains, or winter-killed deer & elk, are all eaten. Although martins are suited for nocturnal foraging, they are also active during mornings & evenings, especially during the long days of summer.
Pine martins are rarely seen on Vancouver Island, and to behold one on the north Island, is a rare treat!