Mad About Martens: Wildlife Biologist Chris Bernier to Lead Adult "Talk and Walk" in February


Large, rounded ears, a sleek body with silky fur, and a bushy tail: would you be able to identify an American marten in the wild?

We are thrilled to announce our first "talk and walk" of our 2018 adult speaker series. We invite you to join us for one (or both!) of two special animal programs with Chris Bernier, wildlife biologist with the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The first program, “The American Marten Comes Back to Vermont,” will be held on Thursday, February 8, 2018, at 7:00 PM. On Saturday, February 10 at 9:00 AM, Bernier,  a wildlife tracking expert with over a quarter century of experience, will offer an intensive workshop, “The Art and Science of Animal Tracking,” on a remote private property in Andover, VT which features several different habitats.

The American marten, Martes americana, is a carnivorous and slender-bodied weasel which is rarely spotted in the wild. Martens have a long and intriguing history in Vermont, which Bernier will examine in his program on February 8th. In the 1800s, widespread deforestation and the unregulated harvest of wildlife took its toll on Vermont’s marten population; by the early 1900s, the species was deemed extinct in Vermont.  

Beginning in 1989, biologists released 115 ear-tagged martens in southern Vermont in places such as Mount Holly and Wallingford in an attempt to re-establish the population in the southern Green Mountains. Unfortunately, field research in the 1990s indicated that the reintroduction effort had failed- martens were not returning.

But the story doesn’t end there: since the early 2000s, evidence collected across the state has indicated a surprising comeback: a small American marten population in the northeastern corner of the state in addition to seven confirmed marten sightings in southern Vermont. It appears that marten have now established two distinct populations in Vermont; is it possible scientists’ reintroduction efforts were not a failure after all, or are these animals the product of natural recolonization? Bernier will share his expertise on this amazing animal population and answer questions at the February 8th program.

While most wild animals, including the marten, are elusive and difficult to spot, winter time can be a rare opportunity to witness these incredible creatures. Bernier continues his partnership with The Nature Museum on Saturday, February 10th with an exclusive winter animal tracking opportunity. Bernier, who will be accompanied by a state Wildlife Specialist and the Nature Museum’s Environmental Educator, will lead a 2.5 hour workshop in Andover, VT for a small group of participants. The group will trek through the snowy landscape, discussing habitat types, animal tracking tips and tricks, forest management, and land conservation. The group will pass through terrain that is intimately familiar to Bernier while hunting for tracks of various animal species. Participants can expect a moderate hike. Experienced hikers are preferred, snowshoes and winter gear required. In case of inclement weather, the snow date for the workshop will be Sunday, February 11th. Space is limited- buy your ticket early for this one-of-a-kind animal tracking workshop. These events are recommended for adults and children over 13.