Small predator could make a comeback to PA wildlife

PENNSYLVANIA (WTAJ) – A weasel-like animal that once called Pennsylvania home could return to the Keystone State.

The American Marten was native to Pennsylvania’s northern forests until it was extirpated in the early 20th century due to deforestation and unregulated harvest. They’re about 20-28 inches long and on average grow to be 3.1 lbs.

But, don’t count the little guy out just yet. Thanks to the Bureau of Wildlife Management the Marten may have a home in Pennsylvania once again.

The Bureau of Wildlife Management will present the feasibility assessment for Marten reintroduction in Pennsylvania to the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) on Friday, July 8 at 1 pm

“The PGC, along with many partner agencies, organizations, and dedicated volunteers has set a long-standing precedence of restoring extirpated or nearly extirpated species to the state. Bald eagles, river otters, wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, fisher, peregrine falcons, elk, beaver and osprey have all seen successful reintroduction while bobwhite quail are currently undergoing this process. There aren’t many species left to reintroduce and with current resource availability, this appears to be a good time to move forward,” furbearer biologist for the Bureau of Wildlife Management, Thomas Keller said.

The meeting scheduled for July 8 begins with commissioners hearing staff reports. A public session will resume again at 8:30 am on Saturday allowing community members to speak on a first-come, first-served basis. Registration for anyone who would like to speak begins at 7:45 am

If the Pennsylvania Game Commission Board of Commissioners votes to move forward with reintroduction, the next step would be to create a reintroduction/management plan.

The Bureau of Wildlife Management and the PGC look at many different areas of research to determine whether the Marten could be reintroduced. Those findings make up the feasibility assessment.

Requirements for reintroduction

There must be adequate suitable habitat in quality, quantity, and connectivity. According to Keller, the suitable habitat lies within counties such as Warren, Forest, Elk, McKean, Potter, Tioga, Cameron, Clinton, and Lycoming. Each of those areas is a structurally mixed forest with canopy cover and a layer of cavities and woody debris.

Other areas of interest that are being looked at include diet research, to determine the impact on the species that currently live in Pennsylvania, like wild turkeys, ruffled grouse, the Allegheny woodrat and others.

The assessment will also look into prey abundance which examines the ability to coexist among predator competitors.

Climate models were also found to be in favor of the Marten reintroduction.

According to a public survey, it was also found that 92% of hunters were in support of reintroduction as opposed to the 7% who were against it.

The groups also examined several different reasons for the Marten reintroductions including ecological, political, economic/social, cultural, and responsibility.

“Restoring a native species to a community that is missing a piece is a critical part of ecosystem restoration. Just as humans are an important part of this overall system, so too are marten, and they provide important ecological services such as seed dispersal, or rodent management within a forest,” Keller said.

The reintroduction plan would lay out release locations as well as source populations, trap and transfer planning, disease management, screening, and a variety of other measures. Another important aspect will be a strong education campaign to help the public understand and become involved in this effort.

Tune in to tomorrow’s meeting live at www.youtube.com/user/PAGameCommission and visit www.pgc.pa.gov for updates on this issue.

More details about the board meeting are available: https://bit.ly/3agQBlT.

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