Marten Hunting Pika

Absaroka-Beartooth Mountains (Montana / Wyoming)

I was observing the American pika in the Absaroka-Beartooth mountains for about a week in mid September. In the morning after the sun's radiance began to warm the surface of the talus rock, the pika would emerge from their rocky homes and commence collection of food to add to their food cache (hay piles).

One morning, in an instant, the pikas virtually disappeared from the talus and adjacent meadow. Within a few moments, an American Marten appeared. It was fascinating to observe the hunting strategy of this house-cat-sized animal. It would move quickly over the talus, then disappear for a few moments, as it attempted to wiggle its way deeper into the interstices of rock. It ran a zig-zag pattern over the talus, sprinting, jumping, leaping and climbing.

The American marten, also referred to as the American pine marten is a North American member of the family Mustelidae, which also includes the weasel, otter, badger, otter, ferret, mink, stoat, and wolverine. Martens are opportunistic feeders and consume small mammals such as the pikas, meadow voles, mice, shrews, and ground squirrels. They also will consume birds, insects, and fruit if available.

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