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Yellowstone Institute Marten Class

Guest Report by Denise Boggs
by Dan Hartman

Feb. 23, 2011

Last Saturday and Sunday I taught a class on pine martens for The Yellowstone Institute. One of the participants, Denise Boggs, wrote a short review which I will share with you. Martens and Grosbeaks and Steller Jays Oh My! By Denise Boggs On a cold crisp February afternoon our group was privileged to go snow shoeing with Dan Hartman, course leader for the Yellowstone Institute’s, “In Search of Yellowstone’s Pine Martens”. Dan is a professional wildlife photographer and naturalist that intimately knows Yellowstone National Park. He has been studying Pine Martens for decades now and likely knows far more about their behavior, habitat, food sources and breeding than the few researchers who study them because he is in the field all the time. Dan took us to Upper Barronette where he had broken a snowshoe trail for us into the backcountry. Almost immediately we came across marten tracks in the snow and then Dan noticed another set of tracks that belonged to an ermine. These tracks crisscrossed on both sides for almost the entire length of the trail. We could see where the ermine attempted to confuse the marten and in several places it looked like skirmishes had occurred. But we never saw any blood or fur so the ermine likely escaped. It was both educational and fun to try and figure out what was going on with the tracks. On Sunday we hit pay dirt! Dan took us to a place he was confidant we would see martens and we did-two of them. Incredibly cute and beautiful animals, martens have a dark coat with an orange-colored breast. About the size of a house cat these weasel-like animals have sharp teeth needed to kill voles, mice and squirrels they feed upon. They live in cavities in woodpiles, downed logs, snags or mistletoe nests in old growth trees. They are playful, curious, fast and make a variety of sounds. Everyone was thrilled to see the martens and have an opportunity to photograph them. They were amazingly tolerant of our presence. Dan did a great job educating us about martens and he’s a pretty good storyteller too. We also saw many birds including Pine grosbeaks, Steller’s jays, Clark’s nutcrackers, Hairy woodpeckers, Red-breasted nuthatches and Black-capped chickadees. We had a great time and I’d like to make a plug for the courses offered by the Yellowstone Institute as well as Dan Hartman. Dan is what I like to call a “citizen scientist” and in my opinion the Park could use more course instructors like him. Check out his web-site at


View slide show

Searching for sign (The author is standing third in line)

Marten chasing ermine tracks

Marten ermine confrontation tracks

Some fun too

Deap Snow


The Class