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Marten Trapping in Canada


by Tom Sabo from British Columbia

The Marten, being a member of the Weasel family and smaller cousin to the Fisher, is an opportunistic hunter.  They prey on a wide variety of animals including hares, grouse, squirrels, birds and their eggs, berries, carrion and their primary prey of mice and voles. Marten are found in suitable habitat throughout the province of B.C. and most Canadian provinces.

HABITAT: Marten are often associated with older high elevation moist conifer forest but it is actually the make-up of the forest stand, not its age, that is more important. They do exist at lower elevations if the proper conditions exist. The important factor is “coarse woody debris” (downed logs, stumps, snags, litter) along with relatively dense overhead tree cover and shrubs to provide protective cover for both Marten and their primary prey. Small local patches of blowdowns are likely places to catch Marten as well as along streams and ridges, and of course heavy timber stands with lots of coarse woody debris.

BAIT & LURE:  Being an opportunistic hunter the Marten will respond to any meat or fish. But, I prefer beaver as it puts out a strong odor even when frozen. If beaver is not available I will use moose or deer scraps. For lure I use beaver castor with anise or a sweet lure with anise and raspberry jam made by a local trapper. There are probably many good lures on the market that work well. You just need to experiment with them to find out what works best for your area. In extreme cold weather a lure with skunk in it will bring them to a set from a greater distance, although I seldom use it, as it is my opinion that in extremely cold weather most Marten will stay and hunt under snow cover in the “coarse woody debris.”

SET LOCATIONS: I have no specific criteria for placing trap sets other than making a set at roughly every kilometre, ½ mile or less, in suitable habitat. The more sets you have out in good habitat the more dispersing animals you will catch. Being that I operate a registered trapline I have, based on trial and error, permanent productive locations I use year after year. Based on years of observation it’s my conclusion that Marten will generally not cross relatively open areas and will disperse only through contiguous habitat with good overhead cover.

TRAPS & SETS: In Canada we are restricted to using killing snares, killing traps or cage traps. The most common trap used is a 120 size rotating jaw trap (conibear), although a 160 is used by some where they also expect Fisher. I find this unnecessary as it is my experience that Fisher will enter through a 120 without hesitation and, in my opinion, the 160 is a bit large for Marten.

The most common set used for Marten trapping is the coni box nailed to a tree vertically with the bottom facing down or to a leaning tree, deadfall or limb. I prefer the leaning tree with the box 4-5 feet off the ground or snow level. The objective with having the set above ground or snow level is to have the Marten hanging after being caught to avoid rodent damage. Rodents are particularly attracted to Marten fur and can quickly reduce the value of a pelt.


Where it is inconvenient to pack in boxes a running pole set is often used. This involves a leaning pole with a trap fastened to the pole with 3 nails, or a commercial trap holder, bait tied to the underside of the pole tip and tree limbs passed through the trap springs and over the trap to force the Marten through it.


I prefer a relatively long box (14-16 inches) with the slot cut to within 6 inches of the back. I place the pan trigger trap close to the bait. This way the marten is stationary standing on the trap pan while working the bait and when the trap is fired it results in a humane suitcase catch 99.9% of the time.


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