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Trapping ban sought for rare Humboldt marten

Wildlife advocates want trapping for the Humboldt marten banned west of Interstate 5, saying the small, rare woodland animal is on the cusp of getting trapped to extinction for its fur.

But state wildlife managers say changing the regulations is moot because no licensed trapper in Western Oregon has caught a marten in its southwest Oregon haunts since 2014 and historical trapping is just “minuscule.”

Architects of the trapping ban set to be considered Friday by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission say that should make the ban a no-brainer, since it wouldn’t economically impact anyone and new research shows trapping could imperil the Humboldt marten, which is listed as a state sensitive species.

“Just because people aren’t trapping for the species now doesn’t mean they can’t do so under the law,” said Nick Cady, legal director for the Eugene-based Cascadia Wildlands, one of four groups who signed a petition asking for the ban.

“One trapper focused on this species for one season could wipe out this species,” Cady said.

The petition also asks the commission to ban “tree traps” west of I-5 that could catch martens while targeting other species and enact a complete ban on all trapping in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, which is a marten stronghold.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists have recommended the commission deny the petition as a “non-issue” because trapping records dating back to 1989 show a Humboldt marten trapping rate of .45 animals a year during the season that runs Nov. 1 through January, said Derek Broman, the ODFW’s carnivore-furbearer coordinator.

“The data says the activity is minuscule,” Broman said. “Based on our data, right now, it doesn’t seem warranted.”

However, a study published in April concludes that trapping of more than two martens per year significantly threatens the species’ survival, according to the petition.

Studies also estimate marten populations at less than 200 along the coast, largely in the Rogue River-Siskiyou and Siuslaw national forests, according to the petition.

The agency takes issue with the trapping ban in the dunes, saying it would, for instance, ban trapping there of bobcats, which are known to prey on martens, Broman said.

The petition does not impact separate marten populations in the Cascades and in northeastern Oregon.

The commission will hear arguments on the petition Friday, a month before it is scheduled to consider a separate petition to list Humboldt marten under the state Endangered Species Act. A similar request under the federal ESA is now under consideration by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Cady said the groups are moving forward with the trapping petition because a state ESA listing decision could take up to two years.

Humboldt marten is a subspecies of pine marten and is a mid-sized forest carnivore that frequents old-growth forests. It differs from the pine martens elsewhere in Oregon, which are not considered an at-risk species.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.

USFS photo{ }This American marten is a close relative of the elusive Humboldt marten.