The pine marten is a carnivorous member of the weasel family. The marten’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 martens 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 marten’s throat and upper chest are a tan color.
The ears give pine martens a cat-like look. Martens 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. Martens have sharp claws which they use for climbing, as well as for holding prey.
Martens 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. Martens will also eat squirrels, and if food is scarce enough, they will occasionally revert to cannibalism.
The marten is an opportunistic feeder. Carrion, such as the remains of wolf kills, dead spawning salmon remains, or winter-killed deer & elk, are all eaten. Although martens are suited for nocturnal foraging, they are also active during mornings & evenings, especially during the long days of summer.
Pine martens are rarely seen on Vancouver Island, and to behold one on the North Island, is a rare treat!