The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) recently announced that it will be conducting a 12-month status review for the Humboldt marten (Martes americana humboldtensis) to determine whether to list the species as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Service’s notice (pdf) requests information on the Humboldt marten, and notes the uncertainty surrounding the subspecies’ taxonomic classification. The classification of martens has evolved dramatically over the years, and ongoing genetic research indicates uncertainty in the classifications in the Pacific marten subspecies. The purpose of the 12-month status review is to conduct an evaluation of a distinct population segment (DPS) of Pacific martens to determine whether or not the marten population in coastal northern California and Oregon should receive ESA protection.

The Humboldt marten is a mid-sized carnivore in the weasel family. Individuals are about the size of a common house cat and have a long, slender body with relatively large rounded ears, a triangular face, short limbs, and a bushy tail. The range of the Humboldt marten has shrunk dramatically in recent decades due to the fur trade and habitat loss from logging. While martens are generally common in most of their range in North America, the Humboldt marten was thought to be extinct until an individual was sighted in 1996.

The Center for Biological Diversity and Environmental Protection Information Center originally submitted a petition to list the Humboldt marten on September 28, 2010. The Service published its 90-day finding on the petition on January 12, 2012, which concluded that the petition presented substantial scientific and commercial information indicating that listing may be warranted.