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(Martes pennanti pennanti)


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.


This species is an omnivore, more so than other mustelids. They will consume deer, moose, fish carrion and are noted for their ability to prey on porcupine. In Virginia, squirrels, chipmunks, woodchucks, rabbits, voles, and mice are probably the prey of choice.