Notes from the Field – Manistee National Forest, MI

Detroit Zoological Society staff, including Director of Conservation Paul Buzzard, are doing fieldwork in the Manistee National Forest in central Michigan.

Greetings from cold and snowy Manistee National Forest in central Michigan.  We are studying the behavioral ecology and conservation of American martens with Grand Valley State University and the University of Michigan-Flint. American martens are small carnivores that are weasel-like and largely arboreal. They were hunted out in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula by the early 1900’s and reintroduced to the Manistee Forest nearly 30 years ago. We are studying the success of the marten reintroduction by looking at marten health, kit survival and habitat use. These data will be used to see how the forest can be better managed by the Forestry service to benefit martens.

Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) veterinarians have helped in the past to put radio-telemetry collars on the martens to track their locations. This technique is very labor intensive, though, and provides information on marten locations only a few times per week. DZS provided funds for GPS collars that use satellite positioning data to record marten locations every half hour and get much more accurate information on marten ranging and habitat use. We are here to help attach the GPS collars, and have for the last several days set up some snug and inviting live traps with plenty of venison for the martens to feast on and lots of straw to make a cozy marten nest. But alas no martens were captured.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere has been a lot of snowfall recently and most of the traps had to be visited via snowmobile so the martens are likely not moving much now. However, we were still able to use the radio-telemetry equipment to track down three martens.

One was hunkered down deep in a fallen log; the other two were high up in squirrel nests and we got some good looks at them before they disappeared into the tree canopy.  Despite the disappointment of not catching any martens, it’s great to continue working to help save some of Michigan’s wildlife. We plan to return in the spring and summer.

– Paul Buzzard