How (and why) you can help Coastal Martens this Holiday

Coastal martens (also known as Humboldt martens and pacific martens) were once thought to be extinct. But 50 years after the last one was spotted, they began to show up, little by little. Their numbers are still low – there might be 500 in all – but thanks to good science —especially the good science of Oregon and Washington — they have remained on the planet.

And now you can help their numbers grow, by commenting on the proposed rule put out by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

But first, if you wonder what nonprofits in the science sector do all year long, this is a great example. Respected, highly educated scientists in a certain field conduct massive surveys, publish their findings (in a paper that has to be edited and accepted by scientific peers), then they have meetings to discuss data findings (where they likely publish more peer-reviewed papers afterwards), then they have meetings to discuss what to do with that data, debate furiously until they come to a consensus (then they most likely publish even more peer-reviewed science), and finally they propose a change (a rule) to the federal government to take action.

In this case, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed a designation of critical habitat for the Pacific marten – for just a segment of the population – the ones in a coastal area.

Many people have the notion that these findings/suggestions come with a liberal slant. But nothing could be further from the case. Scientists, like the regular population, vote on both sides of the ballots, hence, the constant debates.


So when you finally do see a proposal to help endangered species, don’t fall under the illusion that the proposal is a liberal cause, because it is not. It is a very sound, scientific cause that has taken years to come to fruition.

And even after all that debate, you, as a citizen of the U.S., have a right to comment on the proposal. Which you should – after you have read every word – because these are issues that have been well thought out and deserve the same in return.

The Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Designation of Critical Habitat for the Coastal Distinct Population Segment of the Pacific Marten proposal accept comments received or postmarked on or before December 27, 2021.

A Summery of the proposal:

We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose critical habitat for the coastal distinct population segment of Pacific marten (coastal marten) ( Martes caurina ), a mammal species from coastal California and Oregon, under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). In total, approximately 1,413,305 acres (571,965 hectares) in northwestern California and southwestern Oregon fall within the boundaries of the proposed critical habitat designation. If we finalize this rule as proposed, it would extend the Act’s protections to this entity’s critical habitat.

Facts about Coastal Martens

Humboldt Marten Coastal Marten Pacific Marten photograper Mark Linnell US Forest Service
Coastal Marten (also known as the Pacific Marten or the Humboldt Marten)
Photographer: Mark Linnell for the U.S. Forest Service
  • They are smaller than a kitten — about the size of a gray squirrel.
  • They have a coat color that can vary from light to dark brown depending on the individual, however they are commonly cinnamon brown in coloration.
  • Adult martens commonly have a bright orange chest blaze that is diagnostic to the species; juveniles have a creamy white chest blaze that becomes orange as they mature.
  • They play a big role in keeping populations of mice and voles in check, especially in winter.
  • They are a good indicator species for forest management.
  • They were thought to be extinct. 1946 was thought to be the last time a Pacific marten was sighted.
  • Then, over 50 years later, until some were spotted in northern California in 1996.
  • In a 2016 study, researchers were able to confirm the existence of 28 Pacific martens in coastal Oregon. (It was one of the largest carnivore surveys ever conducted in Oregon, resulting in over 350,000 images of forest wildlife that included more than 28 species.)
  • Since then, more studies have been conducted. It is believed that fewer than 500 exist today.
Pacific Marten ©Katie Moriarty photographer scientist
Pacific Marten
Photo credit: scientist Katie Moriarty

Martens are like the river otters of the woods. They’re the size of kittens but act like they’ll attack a pit bull,”says Pacific marten researcher Katie Moriarty, a research wildlife biologist with the Pacific Northwest Research Station who specializes in Pacific martens.

Other Reading Material


Other Ways to Help