PENNSYLVANIA (WTAJ) – A weasel-like animal that once inhabited Pennsylvania may return to the Keystone State.
The American marten was native to the forests of northern Pennsylvania until it became extinct in the early 20th century due to deforestation and unregulated harvesting. They are about 20 to 28 inches long and weigh an average of 3.1 pounds.
But, don’t count the little guy just yet. Thanks to the Bureau of Wildlife Management, the marten may once again have a home in Pennsylvania.
The Bureau of Wildlife Management will present the Pennsylvania Marten Reintroduction Feasibility Assessment to the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) on Friday, July 8 at 1 p.m.
“The PGC, along with many partner agencies, organizations, and dedicated volunteers, has set a long-standing precedent for restoring extinct or near-extinct species to the state. Bald eagle, river otter, wild turkey, white-tailed deer, fisher, peregrine falcon, elk, beaver and osprey have all been successfully reintroduced, while bobwhite quail undergoes currently this process. There aren’t many species left to reintroduce and with the current availability of resources, now seems like a good time to move forward,” said Bureau of Wildlife Management furbearer biologist Thomas Keller.
The meeting scheduled for July 8 begins with a hearing of the Commissioners’ staff reports. A public session will resume at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, allowing community members to speak on a first-come, first-served basis. Registration for anyone wishing to speak begins at 7:45 a.m.
If the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Board of Commissioners votes to go ahead with the reintroduction, the next step would be to create a reintroduction/management plan.
The Bureau of Wildlife Management and the PGC are looking at many different areas of research to determine if the marten could be reintroduced. These conclusions constitute the feasibility assessment.
Requirements for reintroduction
There must be adequate suitable habitat in terms of quality, quantity and connectivity. According to Keller, suitable habitat is found in counties such as Warren, Forest, Elk, McKean, Potter, Tioga, Cameron, Clinton, and Lycoming. Each of these areas is a structurally mixed forest with a canopy and a multitude of cavities and woody debris.
Other areas of interest that are being reviewed include dietary research to determine the impact on species that currently live in Pennsylvania, such as wild turkeys, ruffed grouse, Allegheny woodrat and others.
The assessment will also look at prey abundance which examines the ability to co-exist between competing predators.
Climate models have also proven favorable for the reintroduction of marten.
According to a public poll, it was also found that 92% of hunters were in favor of the reintroduction compared to 7% who opposed it.
The groups also considered several different reasons for marten reintroductions, including ecological, political, economic/social, cultural, and liability.
“Restoring a native species in a community that is missing a piece is an essential part of ecosystem restoration. Just as humans are an important part of this overall system, so are martens, and they provide important ecological services such as seed dispersal or rodent management in a forest,” Keller said.
The reintroduction plan would define release locations as well as source populations, trap and translocation planning, disease management, scouting and various other measures. Another important aspect will be a strong education campaign to help the public understand and get involved in this effort.
Tune into tomorrow’s meeting live at www.youtube.com/user/PAGameCommission and visit www.pgc.pa.gov for updates on this issue.
More details on the board meeting are available: https://bit.ly/3agQBlT.
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