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For Immediate Release, July 2, 2012

Contact: Tierra Curry, (928) 522-3681

Protection Sought for Rare, Mink-like Carnivore in California and Oregon

Long Believed Extinct, Humboldt Marten One of World's Most Endangered Mammals

ARCATA, Calif.— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit today against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to protect the Humboldt marten, one of the world’s most endangered mammals, under the Endangered Species Act.

Humboldt marten
Photo available for media. Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service.

“Only a few dozen martens are known to survive,” said Tierra Curry, a conservation biologist with the Center. “This critically rare animal needs the full protection of the Endangered Species Act right now, while there’s still time to save it.”

In 2010, the Center and allies petitioned for protection of the marten under the Act. The Service determined in January that the marten “may warrant” protection as an endangered species, but by September 2011 had failed to decide, within the one year required by law, whether to award that protection. If this “12-month finding” is positive, some protections will immediately go into effect for the marten.

A cat-sized carnivore related to minks and otters, the Humboldt marten was once relatively common in coastal old-growth forests in Northern California and southern and central coastal Oregon. The marten has been lost from more than 95 percent of its historical California range and from the vast majority of its Oregon range due to logging. At last count there were only an estimated 20 martens in the California population and an unknown but likely equally small number in Oregon. Scientists estimate the total surviving population at fewer than 100 animals.

Because almost all of its old-growth forest habitat has been destroyed by logging, the Humboldt marten was believed extinct for 50 years. It was rediscovered in the Six Rivers National Forest in 1996, and in 2009 the first marten to be photographed in recent times was detected in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park by a remote-sensing camera. In Oregon, the marten lives in the Siskiyou and Siuslaw national forests.

These extremely secretive animals are known for their slinky walking motion and alleged ability to prey on porcupines by biting them on the face. Typically about 2 feet long, with large, triangular ears and a long tail, they eat small mammals, berries and birds, and are preyed on by larger mammals and raptors.

The Center was joined on the 2010 petition to protect the marten by the Environmental Protection Information Center.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 375,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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