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Species at Risk

The Newfoundland Marten

Martes americana atrata

Parks Canada employee using telemetry to study the Newfoundland Marten.
Parks Canada employee using telemetry to study the Newfoundland Marten.
© Parks Canada / K. Redmond /01.10.09.11 (08) 2002

What is the Newfoundland Marten?

The Newfoundland Marten is a sub-species of the American Marten, a tree-climbing member of the weasel family.

Martens are long and slender animals about the size of a small house cat. They have dark brown fur, a bushy tail, large feet with sharp claws, and a small head with large round ears, dark brown eyes, and a pointed muzzle.

Because marten on the island of Newfoundland have been isolated from other martens since the last age ice age (about 10,000 years ago), they have developed unique genetic and physical characteristics. Newfoundland Marten are a forest dependent species and occur in a variety of forest habitats including old, closed-canopyied stands, sites defoliated by forest insects that have more open canopies and plenty of dead, standing trees, and younger forest stands. In the springtime, female martens seek out a den to give birth to 2-3 kits. Dens provide protection from predators and the elements. They are often located in hollow trees, underground cavities, and rock piles.

The complex structure of forests provides woody debris and fallen trees that support prey like voles, red squirrels and snowshoe hares. In the winter, martens hunt small mammals along natural corridors that form under the snow around the fallen trees and tree stumps.

Species at Risk - Who Knew?

Martens have a keen sense of smell. They are also very curious. These qualities make them particularly easy to trap.

Where are Newfoundland Martens found?

The Newfoundland Marten once lived in forested areas throughout Newfoundland, including Terra Nova National Park of Canada. But large-scale timber harvesting removed much of their habitat and excessive trapping significantly reduced their numbers.