Just this morning I was sitting at my computer doing some work when I happened to glance up and out onto the deck. Just at the corner where the snow was piled up I spotted a small face watching me intently. It was a Pine Marten!
We see these guys from time to time up here on Grouse Mountain, usually in quick bursts of energy as they sprint across the snow or duck behind a tree. They are not known to sit still. This guy watched me for a minute or two, long enough for a couple photos, and then ducked back into the snow bank and disappeared.
Pine Martens, Martes americana, are medium sized members of the weasel family, the Mustelidae. They have the long body typical of weasels, and long nosed faces with big ears. Overall they are pretty cute, but don't mistake good looks with friendliness - they also have the weasel's viciousness and lightening fast reflexes. They are omnivores who prefer meat such as mice, voles, birds and squirrels but will also eat berries, nuts and eggs.
Pine Marten's can live in mixed growth forests but prefer coniferous forests with lots of trees to climb and stumps to live in (or under). They are usually solitary but pups will stay with the female well into the summer.
Marten's were extensively trapped and hunted for their pelts during the exploration of North America - so much so that in many areas their numbers never recovered. Now the most common place to see them is in the sub-alpine coniferous forests - just like Grouse Mountain!
Next time you are hiking or skiing up here be sure to keep an eye on the edge of the forest - you never know who might be watching!