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Marten populations in the provincial forest


Marten (Martes americana) are an important part of the food chain in the boreal transition area of the province. A member of the weasel family, martens are typically associated with mature coniferous forests and achieve maximum populations when prey such as voles, mice, grouse and squirrels are abundant.

What's happening

What's happening - Marten populations

What we are doing

Marten populations can be maintained in a harvested forest, provided that partial cutting techniques are used – which maintain the amount of debris, standing dead wood and living trees required by the species. Clearcutting with reserves is a form of partial cutting where some trees are left within the cutblock to provide wildlife habitat. Marten populations do better in mature forests away from road access.

Number of marten pelts marketed

Almost all commercially trapped marten in Saskatchewan are exported to market. Trappers or fur dealers require an export permit before shipping fur, and these permits provide the information used to track harvest volume and distribution by northern fur block. This population status assessment uses harvest reports as a measure of population trends.

Marten harvest can act as a proxy for assessing the general status of marten populations. A healthy marten population is indicated when harvest tracks the market price. Since market price is established in the months following the annual trapping effort, harvest effort and volume will typically trail market trends by a full year.

The harvest trend over the last 10-year period continues to consistently follow market prices. Decreases in harvest are attributed to low market prices after historically high levels in the early 2010's rather than fluctuations in populations.

A survey that asks trappers to assess current populations of marten (and all other furbearers) in their area has been recently added as part of the online hunter harvest survey. Adding the online component has resulted in an immediate significant spike in reporting on this survey. It is anticipated that sample sizes going forward will allow this survey to act as a second metric of marten population trends.

Why it matters

Marten is a valuable fur species that is widely sought after by northern trappers. More than 10,000 marten are harvested in years when pelt prices are strong, resulting in local revenues of more than $1.5 million.

Timber harvesting activities frequently cause significant marten population collapses, and are an ongoing concern to trappers and other northern residents. However, there is no indication that timber harvesting activities are having significant impacts on provincial marten population levels.

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