Monitoring American Marten

(Adirondack Park, New York) 

The American Marten

The American Marten

Project Overview: 

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC) studies American marten (Martes americana) and Fisher (Martes pennanti) distribution and abundance (Jensen, n.d). Trail camera surveys provide valuable data that contributes to population estimates and aids managers in setting yearly trapper limits. Each survey station is equipped with a trail camera pointed at bait (road killed deer or beaver) wrapped to a tree with chicken wire. Also at these stations are devices that allow the marten to enter and leave behind hair samples on a wire brush. A strength of this method is that it is a non-invasive way to gather genetic samples (Mowat &  David 2002).  Additional DNA samples are collected via live-trapped martens, where a small bit of hair is pulled prior to the animals release (Jensen, 2016). 

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation studies American marten (Martes americana) and Fisher (Martes pennanti) distribution and abundance. Trail camera surveys provide valuable data that contributes to population estimates and aids managers in setting yearly trapper limits. Each survey station is equipped with a trail camera pointed at bait (road killed deer or beaver) wrapped to a tree with chicken wire. Also used is a homemade scent lure which is derived from a skunk's anal gland, combined with vaseline. The Mustelids can detect this scent from several miles away. Live trapping of Martens usually happens in the month of March, deep in heart of the Adirondacks. Traps are fitted with wool and evergreen boughs--for warmth and covered with a wooden or plastic "cubby". Branches are layered on top of the traps to protect them from the elements. Bait is either road kill, or a homemade special (sardines and jelly). Traps are checked daily once set. When retrieved from the trap, researchers collect biological data including weight, sex, and information on tooth wear. A hair sample is taken from the tail for later genetic analysis. Both of the marten's ears are fitted with a small State band for identification and future research purposes (recaptures can yield important information). Wildlife research technicians are properly trained to handle and process the live martens safely and efficiently. To find out more information about the conservation efforts of Martens in New York state, visit the American Marten Project. 

What can NYDEC biologists glean from genetic hair sampling?


Samples of hair collected in the field can be analyzed to determine how many individuals were detected, thus yielding abundance estimates (Mowat & David, 2002). Individuals are determined through the genotyping of hair samples at six microsatellite loci (Mowat & David, 2002). Genetic variation is very important to monitor for marten reintroduction areas, especially when areas are geographically isolated (Swanson et al, 2006). The Adirondack Park in New York is both an area where martens have been reintroduced and it is a geographically isolated population (Jensen, 2016). Additionally, the NYDEC has trappers send in harvested marten carcasses and technicians collect genetic samples. Genetic samples in the park have aided in the preliminary estimates of home ranges of marten; a mean of 5.67 square kilometers for males and 2.59 square kilometers for females. According to unpublished data, core marten range in the central Adirondacks may be at carrying capacity, which makes a case for continued monitoring into the future (Jensen, 2016).         

Literature Cited:

Jensen, P. (2016). Ecology of Forest Carnivores in Adirondack Park. PowerPoint Presentation. NYDEC Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources.


Jensen, P. (n.d). American Marten Research. Retrieved from: https://sites.google.com/site/pauljensenwildliferesearch/Home/american-marten-research-in-the-adirondacks


Mowat, G. Paetkau, D. (2002) Estimating marten Martes americana population size using hair capture and genetic tagging. Wildlife Biology, 8, 201–209.


Swanson BJ, Peters LR, Kyle CJ (2006) Demographic and genetic evaluation of an American marten reintroduction. J Mammal 87:272–280

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