Researchers from the U.S. Forest Service and Oregon State University say marten detections have dropped 60 percent since the 1980s, a decrease that may be caused by a degradation of the wooded areas in which they live,
In the early 1900s, American marten could be found in many areas in the higher elevations of the northern Sierra Nevada, a forest service release said Monday.
Today, the researchers say, populations of the small mammal are isolated and fragmented.
Researchers say they believe timber harvesting and thinning, the removal of downed woody material on the forest floor, may be contributing to the population decline.
"We've estimated that there has been about a 25 percent loss in suitable habitat for martens since the 1980s," lead study author Katie Moriarty at Oregon State University said.
Researchers recommended more old-growth forest habitat be retained, especially near streams, as important refuges for martens and their prey.
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