Tree Weasels

American pine martens are mid-sized members of the mustelid (weasel) family that inhabit coniferous forests of North America; their range extends across Alaska, Canada, northern New England, the Upper Great Lakes and the major mountain chains of the western U.S. Equipped with a luxurient coat, broad, furred paws and retractable claws, martens are as comfortable in the trees as they are on the snow-packed ground.

Pine martens are omniverous and primarily nocturnal; while red squirrels and other small mammals are their favored prey, they also feed on fish, frogs, birds, carrion, eggs, berries and nuts. Solitary for most of the year, they mate in late summer and, following a period of delayed implantation and a two month gestation, the kits are born in March or April. Females and their young may den in tree cavities, hollow logs or rock piles while males roam larger territories and use a variety of temporary shelters.

Elusive and generally inactive during the day, martens are rarely encountered by those of us who venture into their domain. Nevertheless, their population was once decimated by the American fur trade and their welfare remains threatened by deforestation. Here's hoping that these attractive tree weasels haunt the Great Northwoods for generations to come.