Marten

So… Here he is.

A booked day off after a crazy couple of weeks (months) getting my facilities ready for our accreditation inspections led to an internal debate that didn’t resolve itself until pretty much the moment I left the driveway this morning… Should I go east looking for the Snowy Owls that have so far eluded me this winter, or go west into the mountains and try to find some of my usual “big game” targets? Well, my truck made the left turn out of Okotoks, and daybreak found me heading into the mountains of Banff National Park. The morning proved to be exceedingly quiet as far as those usual targets… The only elk spotted were resting peacefully on the airstrip (Boring!), and other than a couple of whitetail deer on the tracks right near Banff, it was mostly just Ravens and Magpies showing themselves. Not even the usually reliable Bighorn Sheep were cooperating today. Then, I found this little guy.

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Marten (click to enlarge)

Thinking my luck couldn’t get any worse, on a whim I ventured onto a stretch of highway I haven’t been on in over 10 years. Turning off the main road into a day-use area, something dashed across a cleared area in front of me and disappeared into the trees. My mind quickly did the calculations of just what had so quickly shown itself and then, just as quickly, vanished. Dark, long bushy tail, far too big for a squirrel, a bit smaller than a house cat but far too far from anyone’s house to be a cat, a forest in the middle of the Rockies mid-winter… A Marten!? I didn’t think he would stick around as he was in a pretty big hurry, but I got out and looked into the shaded stand of spruce he had disappeared into with high hopes. There he was, about 8 feet up in a spruce and just looking at me without any concern at all… Finally! For whatever reason, these guys have been a big target of mine… Maybe it is because they are such fierce little hunters – characteristic of the weasel family they belong to – I don’t really know, but when I realized he was going to hang around for a bit I was ecstatic. He moved from tree to tree, clearly alarming some of the squirrels in the area as they started up quite a raucous chant of screams in his direction, but not panicked in any way, and posing quite nicely for me in a couple of spots with nice surrounding cover.

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Show me your teeth! (click to enlarge)

Unfortunately he was heavily shadowed, with the backlit sun only occasionally catching him and revealing his gorgeous red-brown coat. Exposure was a challenge, with the spruce casting deep shadows and the strong sun reflecting off the snow in the background, but I am pretty happy with the results – even happier just to have had the experience in the first place though! Eventually he wandered off to the east, into snow, as I found out, that was about hip deep, making it impossible for me to follow without snowshoes, XC skis, or wings, none of which I had. I left and returned a half hour later or so, hoping he would still be around, but no such luck. It was a lot of mileage, (and a lot of diesel!) but a great reminder that all it takes is one little encounter to make the entire day completely worth the trip…

Now, to find those owls…

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~ by Kerry Statham on January 21, 2014.

8 Responses to “Marten”

  1. Awesome! I enjoyed the script almost as much as the photos. Beautiful

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  2. Very, very cool! Amazing pics and great story Kerry!

  3. Wonderful shots of creature I so admire. I completely understand that one encounter making it all worth it. I’m still hoping to photography snowy owls and martins some day.

  4. Nice spot! SO great to see one of these guys, Glad you had the chance in such a wonderful setting. NJ

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