138            Pine Marten

                         MUSTELA MARTES.--LINN.--GMEL.
                               [Martes americana]

                                  PINE MARTEN.


     M. Magnitudine Putorio visone major, flavida, hic illic nigrescens, capite
pallidiore, gula flavescente, cauda longa, floccosa, acuta.


     Larger than the mink; general colour, yellowish, blended with blackish in
parts; head, lighter; throat, yellow.  Tail, long, bushy, and pointed.


     GENUS MUSTELA.  Linn.
     SUB-GENUS MUSTELA.  Cuvier.
     MUSTELA MARTES.  Linn. Gmel., vol. i. p. 95.
     PINE MARTEN.  Pennant's Arctic Zoology, vol. i. p. 77.
     MUSTELA MARTES.  Sabine, Franklin's Journey, p. 651.
     MUSTELA MARTES.  Harlan, Fauna, p. 67.
     MUSTELA MARTES.  Godman, Nat. Hist., vol. i. p. 200.
     MUSTELA ZIBELLINA (?).  Godman, Nat. Hist., vol. i. p. 208.
     MUSTELA MARTES.  Rich., F. B. A., p. 51, summer specimen.
     MUSTELA HURO.  F. Cuv.
     MUSTELA MARTES--AMERICAN SABLE.  DeKay, Nat. Hist. State of New York,
       part i. p. 32, pl. 19, fig. 2, skull.


     Head, long and pointed; ears, broad and obtusely pointed; legs, rather long
and tolerably stout; eyes, small and black; tail, bushy and cylindrical; toes,
with long, slender, and compressed nails, nearly concealed by the hair.  Hair,
of two kinds--the outer long and rigid, the inner soft and somewhat woolly.


     This species varies a good deal in colour, so that it is difficult to find
two specimens exactly alike; the under fur, however, does not differ as much in
tint in different specimens as it does in fineness.  Some individuals,
particularly those captured in low latitudes, have much coarser fur than those
from high northern regions or mountainous districts.  The hair, which is about
an inch and a quarter long, is of a pale dull grayish-brown from the roots
outwards, dull yellowish-brown near the points, and is tipped with dark brown or
     There is sometimes a considerable lustre in the fur of the Pine Marten; the
hair on the tail is longer, coarser, and darker than that on the body, and the
coat is darkest in winter; the yellowish-white markings on the throat vary in
different individuals.
     In the beginning of summer the dark-tipped hairs drop out, and the general
colour of the fur is a pale orange brown, with little lustre; the tips of the
ears, at all times lighter than the rest of the fur, become very pale in summer.
The feet are generally darker coloured than the hair of the body.  The tip of
the nose is flesh coloured; eyes, black; nails, light brown.


     A winter-killed specimen, exceedingly poor.         Foot.     Inches.

       From point of nose to root of tail,                 1        5
       Length of tail (vertebrae),                         0        7
       Length of tail (to end of hair),                    0       10
       Length of fore-leg to end of longest nail,          0        5 1/4
       Length of hind-foot from heel to end of claws,      0        3
       Length of ear on the outer surface,                 0        1 1/4
     We have measured larger specimens, 20, 21, and 22 inches from point of nose
to root of tail.


     Let us take a share of the cunning and sneaking character of the fox, as
much of the wide-awake and cautious habits of the weasel, a similar proportion
of the voracity (and a little of the fetid odour) of the mink, and add thereto
some of the climbing propensities of the raccoon, and we have a tolerable idea
of the attributes of the little prowler of which we have just given the
description and dimensions.  The Pine Marten, as may be inferred from this
compound, is shy, cruel, cunning, and active, and partakes of the habits of the
predacious animals above mentioned, with the exception that it is not known to
approach the residences of man like the fox, weasel, or mink, but rather keeps
in dense woods where it can prey upon birds, their eggs and young, squirrels,
the white-footed and other mice, shrews, wood-rats, &c., together with beetles
and other insects, larvae of different species, toads, frogs, lizards, water
reptiles, and fish.  It is also an eater of some kinds of berries and nuts (as
we are informed), and is said to be fond of honey like the bear.
     It has been supposed that the name Pine Marten was given to this animal
because it inhabits the pine forests of the northern parts of this continent,
and shows a preference for those trees, in the lofty tops of which it frequently
resides.  The Pine Marten, however, is often called the American Sable or the
Sable, and in fact is more generally known to the country people of our northern
States,  and also to the furriers, by the latter name than by any other.
     Sprightly and agile in its movements, the Pine Marten commonly procures
abundance of food.  It is prolific, bringing forth from six to eight young at a
time, so that notwithstanding the value of its fur and the consequent pursuit of
it during the proper season, it is still by no means a scarce animal.  We have
had several specimens sent to us by friends residing in the State of New York
and in the wilder portions of our Canada frontier, which were procured among the
woody hills of those districts.
     According to Dr. DEKAY (New York Fauna, p. 33), this species is so active
as to destroy great quantities of squirrels, the red squirrel (Sciurus
Hudsonius) only escaping by its superior agility.  Dr. GODMAN remarks that the
"Pine Marten frequently has its den in the hollows of trees, but very commonly
takes possession of the nest of some industrious squirrel, which it enlarges to
suit its own convenience, after putting the builder to death."
     Sir JOHN RICHARDSON says that "particular races of Martens, distinguished
by the fineness and dark colour of their fur, appear to inhabit certain rocky
districts."  "A partridge's head, with the feathers, is the best bait for the
log traps in which this animal is taken.  It does not reject carrion, and often
destroys the hoards of meat and fish laid up by the natives, when they have
accidentally left a crevice by which it can enter.  The Marten, when its retreat
is cut off, shows its teeth, sets up its hair, arches its back, and makes a
hissing noise like a cat.  It will seize a dog by the nose and bite so hard,
that unless the latter is accustomed to the combat, it suffers the little animal
to escape."
     The Indians sometimes eat the Pine Marten, but its flesh is rank and
coarse.  We have seen this species in confinement, when it appeared tolerably
gentle, and had lost much of its snappish character.
     The Pine Marten burrows in the ground at times, and the female brings forth
her young in a fallen hollow log, a hole under rocks, or in a burrow, generally
in April or May.  These animals are chiefly caught with deadfalls baited with
meat of any kind, birds, rabbits, squirrels, &c., and generally a hunter has
many traps set, each of which he visits as often as once or twice a week.  The
Martens are sometimes devoured by larger animals after they have been caught.
They are only trapped in the autumn and winter.
     The fur of this species has been considered valuable, and when in fashion
the skins were worth good prices.  It is often palmed off on purchasers as fur
of a more costly kind, and for this purpose is dyed any desired colour.

                           GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION.

     This species inhabits the wooded districts of the northern parts of America
from the Atlantic to the Pacific in great numbers, and RICHARDSON remarks that
it is particularly abundant where the trees have been killed by fire but are
still standing.  HEARNE observed that it is very rare in the district lying
north of Churchill river, and east of Great Slave lake.  PENNANT states that on
the Asiatic side of Behring's straits, twenty-five degrees of longitude in
breadth are equally unfrequented by the Marten, and for the same reason--the
absence of trees.
     The limit of its northern range in America is, like that of the woods,
about the 68th degree of latitude.  It is found in the hilly and wooded parts of
the northern Atlantic States.  We have seen specimens obtained from near Albany
and from the Catskill Mountains, and it is also found in the northern parts of
Pennsylvania.  Its southern limit is about lat. 40 degrees.
     We have sought for it in vain on the mountains of Virginia, where
notwithstanding, we think a straggler will occasionally make its appearance.  On
the eastern continent it inhabits all the north of Europe and Asia.

                                GENERAL REMARKS.

     Some American naturalists have expressed great doubts whether our American
Marten is identical with that of the north of Europe, and have supposed that it
might be designated under a separate specific name.  We have not had an
opportunity of comparing specimens from the two continents with each other, as
we could find no museum in which specimens from both continents were contained.
We have, however, examined and taken descriptions of them separately, and have
been able to detect so little difference that we cannot regard them even as
     It has been frequently asserted by hunters, that the true Sable exists in
America; thus far, however, no specimen of that animal has been identified as
coming from this country.  Those that were shown to us under the name of Sables
by furriers, we ascertained to be fine skins of a very dark colour of our common
Pine Marten.