A Pacific marten (Martes caurina) in Lassen National Forest, California. USDA Forest Service photo by Katie Moriarty.
Logging debris, commonly known as slash, is often piled and burned. New research in southern Oregon indicates, however, that these slash piles may provide habitat for voles, squirrels, and other small mammals that are prey for the rare Pacific marten (Martes caurina).
Working in the Fremont-Winema National Forest, Randall Wilk, a wildlife biologist with the PNW Research Station, led an analysis to better understand the food habits of martens, key information when managing for its habitat needs.
The study area previously had been salvaged logged following beetle damage to the lodgepole pine forest, and numerous slash piles were formed. Researchers collected and analyzed the contents of marten scat in the area to determine what the martens had been eating. Compared to other marten food studies conducted in other parts of the country, they found novel high occurrences of chipmunks, ground squirrels, vole- and squirrel-sized species groups in the diet of marten.
Their findings suggest that slash piling may be a practical and important habitat management approach for maintaining marten and their prey in south-central Oregon pine forests. Slash piles may be particularly important to chipmunks and ground squirrels, which were staples in the year-round diet of marten. Slash piles also may have allowed for the persistence of prey species that require downed logs. Following salvage logging, martens were observed to utilize slash piles and these piles may have helped sustain the local marten population, at least in the short term.