PORTLAND, Ore.— In response to a petition from conservation groups, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted 4-3 late Friday to protect Humboldt martens from trapping. Fewer than 200 of the martens survive in the state’s coastal forests.
The new trapping guidelines ban all marten trapping west of the Interstate 5 corridor. The rules also ban all commercial and recreational mammal trapping in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area and all traps and snares suspended in trees in the Siskiyou and Siuslaw national forests.
“I’m so relieved Humboldt martens will scamper wild and free in our coastal forests without fear of dying in a trap,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Banning trapping is a big first step toward safeguarding these cute creatures. Now we need wildlife crossings on highways and reconnected forest habitats.”
Only two isolated marten populations survive in Oregon. One group is in the Siskiyou National Forest, and another is in the Siuslaw National Forest. The lack of mature forest habitat on state and private forests stretching between the two populations has isolated them and put them at high risk of local extinction.
“We applaud the fish and wildlife commission for following recommendations in the published science and helping these little carnivores have a fighting chance at surviving for future generations,” said Nick Cady, legal director at Cascadia Wildlands.
Coastal martens are proposed for protection as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act, with a final listing expected in October.
“The commission did the right thing in protecting Humboldt martens from trapping so that Oregonians can have the opportunity to observe these special animals in our coastal forests,” said Danielle Moser, wildlife coordinator at Oregon Wild.
Humboldt martens were once common in the coastal mountains, from the Columbia River south to Sonoma, California. But logging of old-growth forests and fur trapping decimated and separated populations. California banned coastal marten trapping in 1946 and protected Humboldt martens as endangered in 2018.
“If any species needs our help, it's the Humboldt marten, so it’s great that the state has finally taken an important step to protect them,” said George Sexton with KS Wild, based in southern Oregon.
Humboldt marten populations on the central coast are threatened by vehicle mortalities on Highway 101 and lack of suitable mature forest habitat for dispersal. Populations on the southern coast are now threatened by severe wildfires and rodent poisons used in marijuana cultivation.
Last year the state rejected a petition from conservation groups seeking state Endangered Species Act protection for Humboldt martens. That 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.
Martens are typically 2 feet long and have large, triangular ears and a long tail. They eat small mammals, birds, berries, reptiles and insects, and are eaten by larger mammals and raptors.
They are so rare they were thought to be extinct until a remote camera snapped a picture 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 from the martens in the Cascade Range, which are not imperiled.
Photos are available for media use.