Get access

Decline in American marten occupancy rates at Sagehen Experimental Forest, California


  • Associate Editor: Henry Campa III


We compared the distribution and frequency of American marten (Martes americana) detections during historic surveys and a recent survey on the Sagehen Experimental Forest (SEF) in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California. This area has been the location of 9 previous marten surveys during 1980–1993, each involving a systematic detection/non-detection survey on the same grid. These data are a time series of information on the occupancy of martens that can be related to habitat change in the study area. Our objectives were to 1) resurvey martens in SEF using methodology similar to previous studies to assess current marten occupancy; 2) evaluate changes in marten occupancy during the period 1980–2008; and 3) examine associations between marten occurence and changes in habitat and landscape metrics. Current marten occupancy was estimated using surveys conducted in summer 2007, winter 2007–2008, and summer 2008. From 1978 to 2007 there was a decrease in predicted habitat patch size, core area, and total amount of marten habitat in the study area, as well as an increase in distance between patches. Marten detections in 2007–2008 were approximately 60% lower than in surveys in the 1980s. We detected no martens in the summers of 2007 and 2008, and 10 detections in winter 2007–2008 were limited to higher elevations in the southwestern portion of SEF. No martens were detected in the lower elevations where most of the recent forest management activity occurred. We suggest that the marten population at SEF has been negatively affected by the loss and fragmentation of habitat. We recommend that future management of forests in the Sagehen basin focus on restoring and connecting residual marten habitat to improve habitat quality for martens. © 2011 The Wildlife Society.