State Endangered Species Protection Sought for Oregon’s Humboldt Martens
Secretive Cat-like Carnivores in Coast Range at Risk of Extinction
PORTLAND, Ore.— Six conservation groups filed a petition today asking the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to protect the Humboldt marten under the Oregon Endangered Species Act.
Only two populations of fewer than 200 total animals currently survive in the state, on the central and southern coast. Recent studies project that the rare carnivores could go extinct in Oregon if they do not get protection.
“New science clearly shows that it’s a life or death situation for Oregon’s Humboldt martens,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The fate of this cute little predator now rests in the hands of Oregon’s decision makers.”
“Humboldt martens have been nearly wiped out by logging and development of their old-growth forest habitat and over-trapping,” said Nick Cady, legal director at Cascadia Wildlands. “Protection under the Oregon Endangered Species Act will ensure they survive for future generations of Oregonians.”
The martens were once common in the coastal mountains from the Columbia River south to Sonoma, California. But logging of old-growth forest and trapping decimated and separated populations. The animal was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in the redwoods in 1996.
Genetic studies then revealed that Oregon’s coastal martens are part of the Humboldt marten subspecies and are a different subspecies than the martens in the Cascade Range.
Currently Humboldt martens survive only on federal lands in Oregon, with one population in the Siskiyou National Forest and one population in the Siuslaw National Forest. The lack of mature forest habitat on state and private forests between the populations has isolated them and put them at high risk. Humboldt martens in California have also declined to only two small populations, making the total global population less than 400 martens.
A recently published scientific study concluded that Humboldt martens are so rare on the central Oregon coast that trapping or road kill of just two or three annually could result in wiping out the population.
Humboldt martens are under review for federal Endangered Species Act protection, but they can still be trapped for their fur in Oregon. Earlier this year conservation groups also petitioned the state to ban marten trapping west of Interstate 5.
California banned trapping the animals in 1946, and that state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife has recommended that the Fish and Game Commission list them as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act.
Today’s petition was filed by Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Environmental Protection Information Center, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center and Oregon Wild. The Department of Fish and Wildlife must acknowledge receipt of the petition within 10 working days and within 90 days indicate whether the petition presents substantial scientific information to warrant the listing.
Martens, typically 2 feet long, have large, triangular ears and a long tail. They hunt small mammals, birds, reptiles and insects, and are eaten by larger mammals and raptors.
Cascadia Wildlands defends and restores Cascadia’s wild ecosystems in the forests, in the courts, and in the streets.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
Photo © Charlotte Eriksson Oregon State University