Archive for November, 2011

Hi, this is Pico here! I’d like to introduce you to my friend, the Marten.  No, this is not a friend from the Zoo, but a friend from far away.  We have helped the Marten and I’ll let Dr. Spriggs tell you how!

Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden Provides Veterinary Support for Marten Conservation
Maria Spriggs, DVM

The American marten is a small but fierce carnivore belonging to the weasel family.  It weighs about 1.5 pounds, has a unique yellow marking on its chest, and lives in pine forests of the Upper Midwest.  Although many people have never heard of a marten, it is a “species of concern” in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan and an important indicator of forest quality according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.  In fact, the US Forest Service and Michigan Department of Natural Resources have requested research to be done to learn more about the status of marten in Michigan in order to better manage the forests.

And this is where Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden comes in….We have collaborated with the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians in Manistee, MI and Grand Valley State University (GVSU) in Grand Rapids, MI to study the marten population in the Manistee National Forest in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan.  The marten is a culturally significant clan species to members of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, and it continues to be an important furbearer species for tribal members in Michigan. 

Marten populations across the upper Midwest have declined during the 20th century due to habitat loss and excessive trapping.  Some marten were re-introduced into the Manistee National Forest in the mid 1980’s, but little or no follow-up research has been done on the population numbers, habitat, and health of these marten. 

Mesker Park Zoo’s staff veterinarian, Maria Spriggs, and zoo director, Amos Morris, travelled to the Manistee National Forest for the initial pilot project in 2011, and Dr. Spriggs will return in January 2012 for the next trapping session.  The team will use snowmobiles to get into the forest to set and monitor traps, hoping to capture 20 martens.  They will bring them back to a heated truck where Dr. Spriggs will sedate the martens using a portable anesthetic machine.  They will collect blood samples, fecal and fur samples, weights and measurements, and place a radiocollar on each marten.  Biologists will track the martens for the next year and a half.  When the project is complete, the team will trap the martens again to remove the collars.  The results of this research will be critical if future reintroductions of marten are considered.  In this way, the Zoo is gaining a reputation as a consistent and significant partner in wildlife conservation.

Wildlife research often takes place without the expertise of a veterinarian.  However, due to the vulnerable nature of these animals, the Little River Band and GVSU wildlife professionals sought out Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden to provide the most modern techniques in wildlife anesthesia.  This is an important way in which the Zoo can support wildlife conservation in situ.


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