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A winter full of martens

A family portrait
by Dan Hartman

March 10, 2017

     Many of your have visited our cabin this winter and have been greeted with a bevy of martens.  We've had such a phenomenan occur only twice in the last 27 years.  In 1993 eight martens, a family of 5 and another of 3 appeared off and on all winter.  There were names like Buck, Mamma, Little Lady, Spot, Scar and Six.

     It wasn't until 2011 did we once again experience such an occurrence.  We were in the middle of our roughest winter in years when one by one martens began to appear.  Soon we identified 9 different individuals.  Names this time included Growler, Big Twin, Little Twin, Mom and One Eye.  One marten, Growler, was nearing the end of his 7 year life.  Even though he looked healthy this was his last winter.  Luckily, the spring before he had fathered two young males. (See "Martens in the Cabin, how do I get them out?", a story posted in the summer of 2010).

     Now, here we are in 2017 experiencing a solid winter.  But really it goes back to last summer when we endured dry weather and subsequently forest fires.  The rodent population plummeted and the deep crusty snow has made hunting extremely difficult.

     First one male and female from the previous summer appeared.  With them, their offspring, two tiny females.  Then a surprise.  A male we hadn't seen in three years appeared.  It was a marten we first watched in 2010 called Big Twin.  But something was different about his looks.  A tooth was jutting up from his lower jaw like a fang.  We renamed him "Snaggle-tooth".  Somehow during the last three years, he must have broken his lower jaw, survived the injury and found his way back to the place of his birth.  Now,like he did back in 2010-11, he moved into our woodpile.

     Other martens appeared. A young male with a blotchy chest we think might be a brother of the two tiny females.  We called him Seven.  Another spooky male that comes mostly at night we named Speckels because of the many small spots on his chest.  And a male that only appeared when no other martens were around.  This one has a white chin, so that is what we call him.

     The two tiny females were here a lot in the beginning then one suddenly became a rare visitor while the other took up residence under a snow covered stack of lumber beside our cabin.  We named her White Throat because of a large white vertical blaze on her throat.

     As we are now approaching mid March and warmer weather has arrived, some martens have drifted away  It's been awhile since we've seen our big male and the tiny female.  White Chin hadn't been around in weeks when we were awakened this morning by a terrific fight at our bedroom door.  It was over quickly.  When daylight came, I stepped out to find White Chin sitting on a low limb and Snaggle-tooth cowering in an ice crevice beside our door.  Later I found both had disappeared and our female was perched on a stump.  She was soon joined by White Throat and Seven.  

     I nervously wait for Snaggles return.



View slide show

Snaggle Tooth

Big Male


White Throat

The Female / Snaggle


White Chin

Snaggle Tooth

Twins From 2011 Snaggle On The Bottom

Growler (2006)