'>
Home > Columns > Pine Marten
NatureSmart Column

Pine Marten

by Stan Tekiela
© NatureSmart

April 25, 2017

Standing in hip deep snow while watching the sunset over the snow covered mountains, I could hear the howling of 4 wolves in the distance. Yellowstone in winter is a magical place. Filled with all the animals that a healthy ecosystem should possess. From the top tier predators such as wolves, bobcats and mountain lions, right on down to the smallest mice and shrews, and everything in-between.

As the last of the light drained from the sky, I could see where the wolves had bedded down for the night. It was a full moon so there was a good chance they would be hunting during the night, but I figured I would be back in the exact spot the next morning to see if the wolves would be still around.

About 2 hours before dawn, I started heading back to the wolf location from the night before. Keeping my fingers crossed that they would still be around. I slowly made my way across the valley arriving at the exact spot just as the eastern sky began to brighten and the stars fade.

The overnight the temperatures dropped to about -10 F. A respectable temperature for this high elevation during February. Standing there in the cold, waiting for enough light to see, I strained my ears to listen for any sound at all. With no wind, it was completely silent. The kind of silence that comes only with a wilderness environment. No cars, no planes or trains.

After several hours of waiting and watching, it was obvious that the wolves have moved on during the night. Of course I was more than a little disappointed but that is how it goes in the wildlife photo business.

Trying to figure out what to do next, I grabbed something to eat out of my pack and spun around looking in all directions. Nothing but snow covered mountains. Making my way back to my truck I drove around for a while regretting the sunshine. Wildlife usually isn't active on bright sunny days.

I pulled in at one of my regular spots thinking I would take a break and rest. I was going to take a short hike but just 20 yards from my truck I spotted a Pine Martin. I was caught empty handed. So I ran back to my truck to retrieve my camera and tip-toed back. Sure enough the martin was still there and I was able to capture some decent images.

Pine Martens (Martes americana), which are also called American Martens are a slender bodied critter in the weasel family. They are slightly larger than a Gray Squirrel. The live in conifer and deciduous forests of the Rocky Mountains of the western states and across Canada and Alaska. The northeastern corner of Minnesota and parts of New Hampshire and Maine are another good place for Pine Martens.

During winter martens are not as active as they are in warmer months. But they still come out and hunt every couple of days when the weather is good. They are well adapted to hunt in the snow and are well known for being able to travel and hunt under the snow (subnivean). They search out small mammals such mice, voles and shrews under the snow. They also hunt larger prey such as squirrels in the trees and rabbits and hares on the ground.  

One time I watched a marten chase a Snowshoe Hare for 30 minutes. There was about a dozen times I thought the hare would get away, but in the end the marten prevailed and didn't go hungry.

So even though I struck out with the wolves I was fortunate enough to spend some time with a wonderful marten. It just goes to show you that you never know what you will find in nature. Until next time...

Stan Tekiela is an author / naturalist and wildlife photographer who travels the U.S. to study and photography wildlife. He can be followed on www.facebook and twitter. He can be contacted at his web page at www.naturesmart.com.

 

 

Photo by Stan Tekiela

The nationally syndicated NatureSmart Column appears in over 25 cities spanning 7 states: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania. It is a bi-weekly column circulated to over 750,000 readers.

Recent Columns
Most Recent  |  

Pumpkins

It's funny how we hang on to traditions-- especially ancient traditions. Take Halloween for example. Started nearly 3,500 years ago by the Celtic people near Britain, it was a special day set aside to mark the end of the harvest and acknowledge the beginning of the long dark and cold...

Argiope Spider

During the lazy days of summer, nothing in nature seems to be moving or doing much of anything. However, autumn feels like everything in nature is on the move or rushing to preparing for winter. Many of our regular backyard birds have already migrated. Hummingbirds are well on their way to the...

Indian Pipe

There is nothing better than spending a late summer morning walking the woods in search of whatever interesting you can find. Lately I've been out wondering the thick cool forests looking for some mushrooms. I've been successful at find the mushrooms that I am seeking but I also find other...

Mushrooms

Late summer and early fall is the best time for mushrooms. For the past couple of weeks I've been out and about searching high and low for all sorts of mushrooms. I find peace in the simple act of walking in the woods without a specific purpose and being happy with whatever I find.

About...

View all of the titles in the
NatureSmart Bookstore

Check out Stan's latest photos at
NatureSmart Wildlife Images

Wildlife Photography Tours
» More Info

Stan can be heard all across the Midwest.
»More Info