Marten Fur Harvests and Landscape Change in
West-Central Alberta


Shevenell M. Webb and Mark S. Boyce


Journal of Wildlife Management 73(6):894-903; 2009


Trapping for furbearers remains an important outdoor activity in Alberta, Canada, despite low fur prices and extensive industrial development. We investigated the influence of landscape change on furbearer harvests using 30 years of marten (Martes americana) harvest records, interviews with trappers, and Geographic Information System maps of industrial activity and vegetation types. We used an information-theoretic approach to explore variation in trapper success. Cover type and landscape metrics apparently influenced trapper success, because traplines where martens were consistently caught had less vehicle and all-terrain vehicle access, fewer oil and gas wells, and greater proportion of mature conifer forests than traplines where martens were infrequently caught. We identified an important cutoff value or statistical threshold that identified 45% closed-conifer cover, suggesting that a minimum amount of forest cover is crucial for trappers to catch martens. We conclude that the nature and extent of industrial disturbance is contributing to the decision by trappers to trap as well as influencing their success. We recommend that wildlife managers collect trapping effort information (i.e., species-specific no. of trap-nights) on fur reports in association with landscape changes to monitor furbearer harvests more effectively.