Effect of Vehicle Noise on American Martens

Motorized recreation in North American wildlands is increasing, and technological developments in the power and range of vehicles has increased access to high-elevation habitats. The American marten (Martes americana) is vulnerable to this disturbance because martens, like other residents of high-elevation forests, are associated with remote wilderness conditions where the presence of motorized vehicles is a recent phenomenon. We evaluated the effects of vehicles at 2 study sites in California, USA, by comparing marten occupancy rates and probabilities of detection in areas where recreational vehicle use is legal and encouraged (use areas) with wilderness areas where vehicles are prohibited (non-use areas).  Martens were ubiquitous in use and non-use areas in both study sites, and there was no effect of vehicle use on marten occupancy or probability of detection. We predicted that females might be less common and martens more nocturnal in use than in nonuse areas, but neither occurred.  We did not measure behavioral, physiological, or demographic responses, so it is possible that vehicles may have effects, alone or in concert with other threats (e.g., timber harvest), that we did not quantify. We encourage additional studies to determine whether other montane species that are year-round residents demonstrate the same response to motorized vehicles.

Zielinski, W.J., K.M. Slauwon, and A.E. Bowles. Effects of off-highway vehicle use on the American marten. Journal of Wildlife Management. 72(7):1558-1571. 2008.