American Marten

Scientific name: Martes americana (Cape Breton Population)
Mi’kmaq name: Apistanewj


The American Marten, or Pine Marten, is a member of the weasel family. It has a slender body with a small sharp-pointed head, rounded ears and a bushy tail. Its coat is dark with a light orange patch under its belly and throat. Males of 80 cm long (including a 20 cm tail), females are slightly smaller. They have semi-retractable, cat-like claws.


Found in mature coniferous forests, where food supply is abundant (mice, chipmunks, rabbits, shrews, insects, reptiles, fruits, and berries). In recent years marten have been observed in mixed forests as well as cutovers adjacent to standing timber. Preferred resting and hunting areas are in rotting logs, stumps and burrows. They are rarely found in open fields, where there is no protection from predators or weather.

Interesting points

  • They are agile and fast, and can move in trees for hundreds of yards without falling to the ground.
  • They are nocturnal, excellent swimmers, fearless, and very curious (which many humans confuse with tameness).


  • Initial decline in Nova Scotia due to unregulated over-trapping (1700-1900)
  • Today, habitat loss and degradation, and small isolated populations (which provide few breeding opportunities) are the biggest threats.

Courtesy of Species at Risk in Nova Scotia: Identification and Information Guide


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