Martes zibellina


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Martes zibellina
Species Authority: (Linnaeus, 1758)
Common Name(s):
English Sable
French Zibeline
Spanish Marta Cibelina
Taxonomic Notes: May be conspecific with americana, martes, and zibellina (Anderson 1970, Hagmeier, 1961). Heptner et al. (1967) included Japanese and Korean melampus in zibellina (Wozencraft 2005). It is a variable species throughout its range, but the revision of subspecific taxonomy of Martes zibellina is troublesome because there were many introductions and re-introductions throughout most of distribution range in Russia for rehabilitation species in the 20th century (A. Abramov pers. comm. 2006).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Abramov, A. & Wozencraft, C.
Reviewer(s): Duckworth, J.W. (Small Carnivore Red List Authority) & Schipper, J. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)
This species is listed as Least Concern in view of its wide distribution, presumed large population, and because it is unlikely to be declining at nearly the rate required to qualify for listing in a threatened category. In the southern part of its range, the species is considered to be endangered.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species is found in China (Xinjiang to then northeast), Japan (Hokkaido); Mongolia, DPR Korea, Russia (Ural Mountains to Siberia, Kamchatka, Sakhalin, Kunashiri, and Etorofu) (Wozencraft, 2005; Abe 2005); historically west to northern Scandanavia and western Poland.
China; Finland; Japan (Hokkaido); Korea, Democratic People's Republic of; Mongolia; Poland; Russian Federation
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: It is estimated that 6,000 individuals of this species remain in China. Globally the species' population was historically fragmented due to hunting, and it has since recovered and is now fairly abundant in Siberia and the Far East (Monakhov 2001).
Population Trend: Unknown

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: The species is primarily found in dense coniferous forests, but can tolerate other types of forests. It feeds on small rodents, voles, squirrels, pikas, doves and berries. On Hokkaido in Japan, the subspecies Martes zibellina brachyura chiefly inhabits cool-temperate mixed forest, preferring resting sites in "dense-tree forests with many tree species and debris probably in order to avoid predators, and strong wind and foraging in forests of climax succession which are usually rich in their prey such as voles and mice (Miyoshi and Higashi, 2005)." Analysis of scat by Murakami (2003) revealed that this subspecies feeds on small mammals such as voles, with occasional ingestion of insects and fruit in summer and autumn (Miyoshi and Higashi, 2005). In northeastern China, Buskirk et al. (1996) found that this species preferred foraging habitats with larger values of coarse woody debris (CWD) and DBH, basal area of coniferous trees and canopy trees, as also found by Miyoshi and Higashi (2005), which, according to Hale (1999), are vegetational factors that characterize old-growth forest (Miyoshi and Higashi, 2005). This species is found in habitats with well-covered canopies, presumably to avoid attacks by raptors (Miyoshi and Higashi, 2005). Similarily, "the debris-rich and dense-tree forests with a large number of tree species may be effective for the sables to avoid strong wind and predators (red foxes) which usually forage in open lands or sparse-tree forests (Miyoshi and Higashi, 2005)." The sable reaches sexual maturity at 1.5years. The gestation with delayed implantation, takes 245-298 days. Litter size can be 1-7 (usually 3) pups.

For this species in the Ob region of Russia, Monakhov (2001) found that young animals tended to live near floodplains (lowland forest), while adult animals lived on watersheds (upland forest). "The floodplain group of habitats was represented by haircap moss-sphagnum and dwarf shrub-sphagnum pine and birch-pine forests and dwarf shrub-sphagnum oligotrophic bogs; the watershed habitats included spruce-Siberian stone pine stands with fir, spruce-birch stands with fir and Siberian stone pine, and herbaceous-dwarf shrub-green moss pine forests specked with haircap moss-sphagnum high bogs (Monakhov, 2001)."
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): This species is still commercially hunted, logging of primary dense coniferous habitat in Siberia and the Far East (Bakeev and Sinitsyn, 1998). The species is heavily farmed for fur (A. Abramov pers. comm. 2006). In Japan, introduced Japanese marten Martes melampus can be a competitor of endemic Martes zibellina brachyuran (T. Murakami pers. comm. 2006).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: In China, the species was listed as endangered in Key List 1 as e A2acd. Studies are needed on the effects of hunting on this species, in order to develop methods to control its populations and use them commercially without decreasing annual population growth, and territorial regulation is one approach to its solution (Monakhov, 2001). Monakhov (2001) drew the following conclusion: "In the Ob region, hunting should be allowed in all lowland areas, whereas reserves should be created in the upper reaches of rivers and in interfluves, covering 30-40% of these areas. However, with a low sable population density (less than 0.5 ind. per 1000 ha), reserves should cover 40-50% of the habitats occupied by this species." In Japan, selective trapping of introduced Japanese marten is needed to protect native subspecies (T. Murakami pers. comm.).

Bibliography [top]

Abe, H., Ishii, N., Ito, T., Kaneko, Y., Maeda, K., Miura, S. and Yoneda, M. 2005. A Guide to the Mammals of Japan. Tokai University Press, Kanagawa, Japan.

Buskirk, S.W., Yiqing, M., Li, X. and Zhaowen, J. 1996. Winter habitat ecology of sables (Martes zibellina) in relation to forest management in China. Ecological Applications 6(1): 318–325.

Miyoshi, K. and Higashi, S. 2005. Home range and habitat use by the sable Martes zibellina brachyura in a Japanese cool-temperate mixed forest. Ecological Research 20: 95-101.

Monakhov, V.G. 2001. Spatial distribution of sables in the Middle Ob Region. Russian Journal of Ecology 32: 352–357.

Murakami, T. and Ohtaishi, N. 2000. Current distribution of the endemic sable and introduced Japanese marten in Hokkaido. Mammal Study 25(2): 149-152.

Wozencraft, W.C. 2005. Order Carnivora. In: D.E. Wilson and D.M. Reeder (eds), Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. Third Edition, pp. 532-628. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC, USA.

Citation: Abramov, A. & Wozencraft, C. 2008. Martes zibellina. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. <>. Downloaded on 03 July 2015.
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