The Humboldt Marten (martes caurina humboldtensis) is a stealthy, cat-sized forest carnivore in the weasel family (related to minks and otters). The Humboldt marten is so rare that it was thought extinct until rediscovered in 1996.
These extremely secretive animals are known for their slinky walking motion and ability to prey on porcupines by biting them on the face. Typically about two feet long, with large, triangular ears and a long tail, they eat small mammals, berries and birds, and are preyed on by larger mammals and raptors.
Due to extensive clearcut logging and short rotation forestry on low-lying coastal forests on private lands which have replaced the diverse native forests of Northern California and Southern Oregon with oversimplified tree plantations, the marten has been eliminated from 95 percent of its historic range.
In order to save this unique carnivore from oblivion, EPIC petitioned the Fish and Wildlife Service to list the Humboldt marten under the Endangered Species Act. Today’s decision is a blow to marten conservation in Northern California.
“I am shocked and disappointed,” said Tom Wheeler, Program and Legal Coordinator at EPIC. “The Fish and Wildlife Service admits that the California marten population only totals around 40 individuals. The Service has no idea how many coastal martens are left in Oregon, but all experts agree that the population there isn’t thriving. Our martens are holding on by a thread but the Service has its head in the sand.”
Rob DiPerna, California Forest and Wildlife Advocate at EPIC concurred, “The Service’s decision was not based on the best available science. The decision discounts the numerous, serious threats to the marten while trumpeting voluntary conservation measures as a fix to the marten’s problems. Under the Service’s rationale, the marten won’t recover and may go extinct in the near future.”
Despite the setback, EPIC will continue to work on necessary and immediate protections for the Humboldt marten. While the Fish and Wildlife may not care about the marten, EPIC does.