Distributional changes of American martens and fishers in eastern North America, 1699-2001: Chapter 4




Contractions in the geographic distributions of the American marten ( Martes americana) and fi sher ( M. pennanti) in eastern North America south of the St. Lawrence River between Colonial times (ca. 1650–1800) and the fi sher’s recent range expansion (ca. 1930–present) are well documented, but causal factors in these range contractions have only partially been studied. Traditional explanations for range contractions by both species are forest clearing and unregulated trapping; little consideration has been given to alternative explanations. It has been hypothesized that deep snow limits the distribution of fi shers, and that high fi sher populations limit the distribution of martens. I assessed the potential contributions of these factors to observed range contractions for these species by evaluating expected patterns of change in their historical distributions since Colonial times. Using published data on the distribution of martens and fi shers in eastern North America, including early and contemporary fur-harvest records ( n = 60,702), I found that broad-scale changes in their geographic distributions in eastern North America were consistent with 3 of those expectations, and partially so with a 4th. I recognize that retrospective analyses cannot establish the relative importance of land clearing, unregulated trapping, and changing climatic conditions on observed range contractions; nevertheless, when historical data from eastern North America are viewed in the context of long-term climate warming and the results of recent ecological studies, they suggest that traditional arguments may only partially explain historical range contractions for both species. This study further suggests that under a warming climate, northern range boundaries for the fi sher will expand, and southern range boundaries for the American marten will continue to contract.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Book chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Title Distributional changes of American martens and fishers in eastern North America, 1699-2001: Chapter 4
ISBN 978-0-8014-5088-4
Year Published 2012
Language English
Publisher Cornell University Press
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Leetown
Description 16 p.
Larger Work Type Book
Larger Work Title Biology and Conservation of Martens, Sables, and Fishers: A New Synthesis
Country Canada, United States