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Fact File

Scientific Name: Martes pennanti pennanti

Classification: Mammalia, Order Carnivora, Family Mustelidae

Identifying Characteristics

This species is the largest of the genus with a long fox-sized body, short legs, and ears that are small and rounded. The tail is long and bushy, and the fur is dark, soft and varies with the season. They have a dark brown-black dorsum (may be frosted on the head, neck and shoulders), and a brown ventrum with white patches on the chest, axillar, and genital regions. The total length of the male is 900-1200 mm, and the female 750-950 mm with weights of 3.5-5.5 kg for males and 2-2.5 kg for the female. Mating dens are usually high in hollow trees, or in rock crevices. The litter size is from 1-5 and is born in the early spring. They are solitary, except briefly in the breeding season. Longevity in the wild has a minimum of 7 years. There is little predation on healthy adults, possibly some by owls, and hawks, especially on kits.


They are extirpated in the state (habitat destruction, excessive trapping and shooting). Wanderers from West Virginia are now appearing along Virginia border areas, (Highland, Rockingham, and Rappahannock counties) but there is no evidence of reproductive populations in Virginia. It was probably formerly widespread in the mountains of Virginia. It survives best in extensive forest and wilderness areas for its home range is large – 15 to 35 square km.

Last updated: August 18, 2023

The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources Species Profile Database serves as a repository of information for Virginia’s fish and wildlife species. The database is managed and curated by the Wildlife Information and Environmental Services (WIES) program. Species profile data, distribution information, and photography is generated by the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, State and Federal agencies, Collection Permittees, and other trusted partners. This product is not suitable for legal, engineering, or surveying use. The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources does not accept responsibility for any missing data, inaccuracies, or other errors which may exist. In accordance with the terms of service for this product, you agree to this disclaimer.