Martens - An Algonquin Success Story
Fall has fallen here in Algonquin. All of the autumn leaves have been blown off the trees by the late October winds and Nature seems to have begun settling in for the Winter it will shortly face. Gray Jays have overcome their summer shyness and are now readily approaching people for handouts to store. Our Black Bears have retreated to areas with mast crops for them to bulk up on, and will shortly be looking for places to settle down. Our wolf pups now sound no different than the adults when their howls pierce the otherwise eerily silent autumn nights. Most of our insect-eating birds have departed for parts South, and I will follow them close behind, ending my Algonquin adventure on the 23rd of this month.
But I am not out of here yet, and while the birds may be few and far between, mammals are now being readily seen as they attempt to bulk up before pickings get hard.
Moose are herbivorous and are eating the remaining deciduous leaves before they have to begin subsisting on conifer needles and twigs, which are less nutritious, meaning they have to eat more to get enough energy to survive. But this isn't problematic - there are plenty of conifer needles and twigs out there.
More creative means at acquiring food at this time of the year are being taken by the carnivores, whose food supplies do dwindle in the winter. A good example of one such animal is the American Pine Marten, a weasel who spends a lot of time climbing trees, and very much a carnivore.
Pine Martens eat whatever they can catch - a large part of their diet is birds, bird's eggs, and small mammals. And as many birds move out of the park, eggs being seasonal, and small mammals being hard to catch and not energy efficient to subsist on, this particular Marten (whom I've named Marty) has found a rather interesting food source.
Now, Martens are very much Endangered in much of their range. Trapping and Hunting has decreased their numbers - in Europe, the United States and much of Southern Canada, they now occupy only untouched wilderness and are extremely rare even there. They shun human presence so much that it is extremely rare to see one, and when one does, it's usually a fleeting glimpse. What about Algonquin's Martens?
Well, here's Marty eyeing the Algonquin Logging Museum building. Is he just passing through? Is this just another rare glimpse?
No....he seems quite curious.
Well, now he's being obnoxious. He sniffs around, claws at the door (!) and then takes off. Just a confused animal, I guess. However, fifteen minutes later, however, I hear a strange noise coming from one of our steel garbage containers. It sounds like some animal is inside. Thinking it's another red squirrel, I open the hatch and witness the sly "ghost of the northwoods" eating bread out of the garbage. Nice. Marty decides he doesn't want to be humiliated any longer and climbs up the container and springboards off my shoulder into a nearby tree.
This story may seem exceptional, but in reality, here in Algonquin, it's really not. Martens are so common that I now have seen several raiding garbage containers in various places in the Park, and a couple at the bird feeders as well (They will eat seeds - high in fat). Marty may have been exceptionally unafraid of people due to him being at the busy Logging Museum, but he is still very much a wild animal quite at home in Algonquin - the American Pine Martens stronghold in Southern Ontario. We have so many that they eat out of the garbage! In several instances Algonquin Martens have live-trapped for re-introduction in other places, such as Michigan.
As for Marty, he continued to entertain us every day at the Logging Museum for at least a week, until the main building closed and Ihaven't been back. Lucky for Marty, however, the main trail is still open and unknowing guests are likely still tossing unfinished food into his private all-you-can-eat buffet. Soon enough, however, even that food won't be enough come winter and he will once again be weaving his way through the treetops after any remaining birds and red squirrels in Algonquin's vast northwoods.