Pot farms threaten this adorable (and fierce) predator

June 28, 2018, 12:12 p.m.

The American marten, of which there are a number of subspecies, is a cat-sized relative to minks and otters. It's an adorable little critter that also has zero qualms about pouncing on similarly adorable squirrels for lunch. They're secretive and rarely seen creatures, but the boom weed business in California is pushing them into the spotlight — and not for a good reason.

The state is seeking to have the Humboldt marten, sometimes also called the coastal marten, declared an endangered species within its borders as habitat destruction caused by marijuana farms expands into the critters' territory. Only small pockets of the animals are known to exist — it was thought extinct until 1996 — with a population of 100 in Oregon and another 200 in three northern California counties. Those counties, however, overlap with the so-called Emerald Triangle, the country's largest cannabis-producing region.

Habitat loss isn't the only thing threatening the martens. Many cannabis farmers use anticoagulant rodenticides to stop varmints from chewing through irrigation lines or nibbling on the goods. These kinds of poisons enter the food web, causing havoc when they do. Deaths of owls and fishers, another rare weasel-like forest critter, have been tied directly to the poisoned rodents. While marten deaths have not been attributed to this officially, they do eat some of the same small rodents that owls and fishers do.

If the marten receives any protections, it will only be within the state of California, and those protections would not extend to any federally-owned California lands.

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