State to transplant pine martens
[Reprinted from original]
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana plans to transplant pine marten to the state's Little Belt Mountains to help restore and maintain the species.
The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission approved a proposal by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks to transplant 60 of the weasels, The Independent Record reports.
The operation will be the first marten transplant in the state since the 1950s when the weasels were released into the Big Belt mountain range.
Pine marten, which are native to the state, have been documented in other central Montana mountain ranges but wildlife officials have not detected them in the Little Belt range despite years of baited camera traps and tracking surveys.
Pine marten hunt small animals, including those found under the snow. They are characterized by light to dark brown fur, prominent ears and a vibrant orange or yellow throat patch.
Biologists do not know why the animals have remained absent from the area.
“This is an opportunity to restore that species to one of the last remaining places it historically occurred," Fish, Wildlife & Parks biologist Jay Kolbe said.
Trapping the weasels in the Little Belt region will be prohibited as biologists monitor whether they successfully establish a population there. Marten trapping will remain open elsewhere in the state.