What’s that critter? Pine marten photographed in Sooke

(Wayne Beaton)
The marten is pictured running towards Wayne Beaton and his dog.

A chance encounter in Sooke offered an Island resident a chance to photograph an adorable pine marten, also known as an American marten.

The animal, spotted near the Sooke Potholes on May 15, is part of the weasel family – and martens can be found on Vancouver Island, as well as across Canada and the northern U.S., though their numbers are dwindling in Eastern Canada.

Martens generally live in boreal forests, and hunt other small mammals like squirrels and rodents, according to Nature Canada.

Martens are also known to eat birds, fruit, nuts, insects and carrion as opportunistic feeders. They can grow up to 14 to 18 inches long, not including their tail, and weigh up to two pounds.

They tend to live in thick forests and make dens in hollow trees, according to Sierra Club BC.

Deforestation and habitat loss are among their greatest threats, but their population is not at risk in B.C., says Nature Canada.

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(Wayne Beaton)

‘Thought it was a squirrel’

Wayne Beaton was walking his son’s dog on the Galloping Goose trail near the Sooke Potholes on Wednesday when he spotted the marten, or rather, the marten spotted them.

He says the small mammal came barreling towards them from the trail, and at first he thought it was a squirrel.

“I thought it was odd that this squirrel was running straight towards us, like straight towards us as if a cougar was pursuing it,” Beaton told CHEK News.

As it got closer, though, Beaton says he knew it must’ve been something else.

“I thought it was a river otter, or maybe a baby river otter, because those can get quite big,” he said.

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(Wayne Beaton)

When he posted the pictures to social media earlier this week, he said he thought it was a mink, but some commenters pointed out that it looks to be a marten.

“I’ve never seen a pine marten before or heard of pine marten before,” said Beaton.

He says it didn’t seem like the animal was charging towards him and his son’s dog in an aggressive way.

“It kind of caught me off guard, and it ran to us like it was coming to us, not like it was attacking or doing anything,” he said.

“It looked like it was going, ‘Hey mommy, there you are,’ and then as we got closer it stopped and looked at us then went into the bush.”

The BC SPCA tells CHEK News it’s not very familiar with pine martens, and that none have been admitted to its wildlife rehabilitation centre in Metchosin, Wild ARC.

READ MORE: Victoria snorkeler gets up close with unique sea creature: ‘I had no idea what this thing was’

(Wayne Beaton)

Adam Chan

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