Martes zibellina 

Scope: Global
Language: English

Translate page into:

Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Carnivora Mustelidae

Scientific Name: Martes zibellina (Linnaeus, 1758)
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Sable
French Zibeline
Spanish Marta Cibelina
Taxonomic Notes: In general, Martes zibellina is most similar morphologically to M. martes, M. americana, and M. melampus (Anderson 1970, Clark et al. 1987, Hagmeier 1961, Heptner et al. 1967); however, it has a shorter tail and darker, more lustrous and silky pelage. Heptner et al. (1967) believed that M. zibellina includes M. melampus as subspecies, but recent genetic studies support the species rank of M. zibellina and M. melampus (Kurose et al. 1999, Inoue et al. 2010, Li et al. 2014). The largest Sables dwell in Kamtchatka, Altai and Ural forests and the smallest are found in the Ussuri and Amur forests of the Russian Far East and on Hokkaido, Japan. Darkest pelages occur in the Baikal Region, Yakutia and Amur Basin, and the lightest in Trans-Urals (Timofeev and Nadeev 1955, G. Monakhov 1976, V.G. Monakhov 2006, Monakhov and Bakeyev 1981). Historically, up to 34 subspecies and variations of Martes zibellina have been proposed by different authors (Wozencraft 2005, Monakhov 2011). An intraspecific revision is hampered by considerable polyclinal geographical variability, and also by mass reintroductions in Russia in the mid-20th century (Timofeev and Pavlov 1973, Monakhov 2006, 2011, Ranyuk and Monakhov 2011).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2015-03-03
Assessor(s): Monakhov, V.G.
Reviewer(s): Duckworth, J.W., Schipper, J. & Abramov, A.V.
Contributor(s): Wozencraft, C
Sable is categorized as Least Concern because there is a large (over two million) population spread widely within Eurasia. In most its range it is no danger of decreasing numbers, notwithstanding declines in some countries comprising in total only a small proportion of its range.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The Sable occurs in Eurasia, mainly in mountain and lowland conifer forests of Siberia from the European north-east (western foothills of the Urals) to the Pacific Ocean, including Kamchatka, Sakhalin and Hokkaido. In Russia, it occurs across 7 million km² (Bakeyev and Sinitsyn 1994). In north-west China, it currently occurs in a small area of the southern Altai Mountains in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. In north-east China, it is now found in the Daxinganling and Xiaoxinganling Mountains of Heilongjiang and Inner (Nei) Mongolia provinces (Zhu et al. 2011). In Mongolia, it inhabits the north-western Mongol Altai Mountain Range, the mountains around Lake Hovsgol, and the Hentii Mountains (Clark et al. 2006). Sable occurs in northern Korea around the Changbaishan (Paektu) Mountains and southward into North Hamgyong province, DPR Korea, but not in the south (Won and Smith 1999), although the entire Korean peninsula was indicated to hold it by Anderson (1970), Bobrinskii et al. (1944) and Heptner et al. (1967). In the Japanese archipelago, Sable occurs only on Hokkaido. In Kazakhstan, Sable originally dwelt in the south-west Altai Mountains in Eastern province along the Uba and Buhtarma Rivers basin (Monakhov 2011a).

Across its range, Sable uses a wide altitudinal range, depending at any given locality on the distribution of forest vegetation. For example, in the Ob Basin it inhabits forests at altitudes of 20-200 m a.s.l.; in the Ural Mountains, at 200-650 m; in the Altai Mountains, at 350-1,100 m; in the Sayan Mountains, at 900-2,100 m; in the Barguzin and Cherskii ridges, at 600-1,600 m; and in the Verkhoyansk Ridge, it reaches 2,100-2,200 m a.s.l.
Countries occurrence:
China; Japan (Hokkaido); Kazakhstan; Korea, Democratic People's Republic of; Mongolia; Russian Federation
Additional data:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):No
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):NoExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Continuing decline in number of locations:No
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:NoLower elevation limit (metres):20
Upper elevation limit (metres):2200
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Recent studies (Borisov and Lomanov 2006, Safonov et al. 2006, Sinitsyn 2012) have shown that earlier growth in Sable numbers has continued. Leading Sable ecologists and researchers documented that Sable harvest in Russia reached 700,000 – 750,000 animals in the winter 2011/2012 game season and the Russian population is estimated at 2.0–2.2 million animals (Dejkin et al. 2011, Monakhov 2012a, Monakhov and Li 2013). In the 2010s Sable occupies all suitable habitats and previously not colonised territories, which allows numbers to increase in Russia. Sable numbers in China were estimated in 6,000 in the 1990s (Ma 1998) and 18,000 in the 2010s (Zhu et al. 2011, Monakhov and Li 2013). Population of Sable in Mongolia were assessed at least 10,000 for Central Hentii Mountain Range in the 1970s (Clark et al. 2006). No estimates are available for Japan, Korea or Kazakhstan; the occupied parts of each of these countries comprise only a small part of the species's global range.
Current Population Trend:Increasing
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals:No
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No
Continuing decline in subpopulations:No
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:The Sable inhabits serried coniferous (taiga) and deciduous forests, in both plains and mountains. It has been observed near megacities in areas with developed industry (Sinitsyn 2012). In forest, individual home range is 4-30 km² (Heptner et al. 1967). Adults have areas 2-3 times larger than do the young. If food availability is low, the home range is larger. In autumn young animals are leaving denning sites (Heptner et al. 1967, Bakeyev and Sinitsyn 1994) and tend towards floodplains (Monakhov 2001). Average movement rate is 7.3-10.6 km per day for males and 6.5-12.0 km per day for females (Gusev 1966). Most tagged Sables went no farther than 30 km from the tagging sites (Monakhov and Timofeev 1965, Sutula and Popov 2001, Chernikin 2006), with the maximum recorded distance for males (females not observed) with ear labels was up to 300 km (Bakeyev et al. 1980, Bakeyev and Sinitsyn 1994, Chernikin 2006). Sometimes Sables are caught 130-160 km outside the species's range (Monakhov 2010).

The Sable lives mainly in the lower (ground) storey of the forest, in contrast to Pine Marten Martes martes, which is more arboreal (Heptner et al. 1967).

The Sable is an omnivorous predator (Timofeev and Nadeev 1955, Heptner et al. 1967, Monakhov and Bakeyev 1981, Bakeyev et al. 2003). Its winter diet (during the hunting period) is studied better. In the Sayan and Ural Mountains, stomach and faeces samples contain 64-80% mammals (mostly small), 6-12% birds, 33-77% of pine nuts Pinus sibirica and P. pumila, and 4-33% berries. Similar proportions were observed for lowland taiga in West Siberia: 75-90%, 24-80%, 20-53% and 20-63%, respectively (Monakhov and Bakeyev 1981). Prey may also include larger mammals: pika Ochotona, squirrels Sciurus and Pteromys, Muskrat Ondatra, marmots Marmota, hare Lepus timidus, and Siberian Musk-deer Moschus moschiferus (Khlebnikov 1977, Zirjanov et al. 2001, Chernikin 2006). Cannibalism was shown by Kolychev (1976) in the Yenisei Siberia and Transbaikalia. Fish is not rarely found in the diet (Tavrovsky 1971, Monakhov and Bakeyev 1981).

Gestation lasts 245–298 days including 7.5–8.0 months of diapause. The duration of embryonic development after implantation (true pregnancy) is 30–35 days. Births take place from 25 March to 3 May. Litter size is 1–7 kits, with an average of 2.5–3.5. In Russia, mean number of corpora lutea differs geographically from 2.52 in the Sayan Mountains to 4.47 in Kamchatka with maximum to 4.97 in Demjanka River basin. The maximum number of corpora lutea in the wild is eight, with nine in captivity (Monakhov 2011a).

The average proportion of males in the population 54.5% ± 0.08% SE (n = 13,997; Monakhov and Bakeyev 1981). The age structure is very variable in the local populations. Underyearlings (juveniles) can amount to 30.5-75.6% of the population (Monakhov 2005), their average share 44.8% (Monakhov and Bakeyev 1981). Revealed shares of underyearlings are often very high, which is inconsistent with the natural growth of the population and the observed size of offspring. This discrepancy is considered the result of selective capture and shooting of young animals in the hunting (Monakhov and Bakeyev 1981; Monakhov 1983, 2005, 2012b).

The age structure, determined by the Klevezal and Kleinenberg (1969) method of aging, is as follows: juveniles 62.7%; yearlings 12.5%; 2–4 year-olds 2.7–5.5%; 5–7 year-olds 1.5–3.7%, and animals of 8 years and older 0.4–1.7% in the Urals (n = 2,150), and 75.6%, 5.7%, 2.7–4.9%, 0.8–2.5% and 0.2–1.4%, respectively, in the Western Sayan (n = 1,765 - Monakhov 2005). Annual survival rates of Sable: 19.9% for underyearlings, 44.0% for yearlings, and 75.9–79.4% of animals 2–9 years in the Urals (Monakhov 2005) and 33.0%, 59.6% and 49.3–75.8%, respectively, in the Western Sayan (Sokolov 1979).

In addition to natural deaths (together with zoonoses), the enemies of Sable are eight species of mammal and eight species of bird (Monakhov 2011a). The competitors of Sable are omnivorous and carnivorous predators. Up to 34 helminth species, 19 species of fleas and three species of gamasid mites are described as Sable parasites (Bakeyev et al. 2003).
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:No
Generation Length (years):5.7
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Sable is hunted heavily and, nowadays, sustainably across much of its range as a valued furbearer.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The main factor in reducing the number is winter hunting. However in Russia, Sable is exploited in compliance with scientifically substantiated quotas, so this hunting is not a threat to the species. Some habitat is lost through clear-felling of forests, building of communications, and the development of new mines, oil and gas fields.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: In Russia, after a critical depression in number that lasted until the 1940s, Sable is protected in state nature reserves, national parks, and game reserves. Outside protected areas, Sable harvesting in Russia is strictly regimented by hunting quotas for each region and is limited to 15 October - 29 February. The main areas where Sable is protected are 41 state nature reserves with a total area of 164,960 km². Mass reintroductions in the 1940s-1960s involved about 19,000 animals. In China, hunting is forbidden throughout the whole 215,678 km² area holding the species (Zhu et al. 2011); the species is in the first category of protection. Eight national reserves totalling 8,122 km² hold it (Ma and Xu 1994). In Mongolia, it is classed as vulnerable (Clark et al. 2006). In DPR Korea, the Sable is classified as endangered (Won and Smith 1999). In Japan (Hokkaido) Sable has been protected since 1920 (Murakami and Ohtaishi 2000) and is now listed as Near Threatened (Murakami 2009).

Classifications [top]

1. Forest -> 1.1. Forest - Boreal
suitability:Suitable season:resident major importance:Yes
1. Forest -> 1.4. Forest - Temperate
suitability:Suitable season:resident major importance:Yes

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
  Action Recovery plan:Yes
  Systematic monitoring scheme:Yes
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Conservation sites identified:Yes, over part of range
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
  Area based regional management plan:Unknown
  Invasive species control or prevention:Not Applicable
In-Place Species Management
  Harvest management plan:Yes
  Successfully reintroduced or introduced beningly:Yes
  Subject to ex-situ conservation:No
In-Place Education
  Subject to recent education and awareness programmes:Yes
  Included in international legislation:Yes
  Subject to any international management/trade controls:Unknown
5. Biological resource use -> 5.1. Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals -> 5.1.1. Intentional use (species is the target)
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Minority (<50%) ♦ severity:Negligible declines ⇒ Impact score:Low Impact: 4 
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

5. Biological resource use -> 5.3. Logging & wood harvesting -> 5.3.4. Unintentional effects: (large scale) [harvest]
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Minority (<50%) ♦ severity:Negligible declines ⇒ Impact score:Low Impact: 4 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

7. Natural system modifications -> 7.1. Fire & fire suppression -> 7.1.3. Trend Unknown/Unrecorded
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Minority (<50%) ♦ severity:Negligible declines ⇒ Impact score:Low Impact: 4 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

Bibliography [top]

Anderson, E. 1970. Quaternary evolution of the genus Martes (Carnivora, Mustelidae). Acta Zoologica Fennica 130: 1–132.

Bakeyev, N.N. and Sinitsyn, A.A. 1994. Status and conservation of Sables in the Commonwealth of Independent States. In: S.W. Buskirk, A.S. Harestad, M.G. Raphael and R.A. Powell (eds), Martens, Sables, and Fishers: biology and conservation, pp. 246–254. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York.

Bakeyev, N.N., Chernikin, E.M. and Shilyaeva, L.M. 1980. Carnivores. In: V.V. Kucheruk (ed.), Results of marking on mammals, pp. 77–94. Nauka Publishing House, Moscow, Soviet Union.

Bakeyev, N.N., Monakhov, G.I. and Sinitsyn, A.A. 2003. The Sable. All-Russian Institute of Hunting and Fur Farming Press, Vjatka [Kirov], Russia.

Bobrinskii, N.A., Kuznetsov, B.A. and Kuzyakin, A.P. 1944. Guide to the mammals of the USSR. Prosveshchenie Publishing House, Moscow, Soviet Union.

Borisov, B.P. 2011. Sable (Martes zibellina L., 1758). In: O.B. Andriyashkin (ed.), The State resource management: Hunting and hunting resources of the Russian Federation. Special Issue, pp. 56–58. Young Guard – Style, Perm, Russia.

Borisov, B.P. and Lomanov, I.K. 2006. Analysis of situations with protection and using of the resources of the Sable in Russia. Vestnik okhotovedeniya 3: 289–308.

Chernikin, E.M. 2006. Ecology of Sable (Martes zibellina) in Barguzin Reserve. Buryat State University Press, Ulan-Ude, Russia.

Clark, E.L., Munkhbat, J., Dulamtseren, S., Baillie, J.E.M., Batsaikhan, N., King, S.R.B., Samiya, R. and Stubbe, M. (eds). 2006. Summary Conservation Action Plans for Mongolian Mammals. Regional Red List Series Vol. 2. Zoological Society of London, London, UK.

Clark, T.W., Anderson, E., Douglas, C. and Strickland, M. 1987. Martes americana. Mammalian Species 289: 1–8.

Dejkin, V.V., Danilkin, A.A. and Kuzjakin, V.A. 2011. Conceptual bases of rational resource using in game management of Russia. In: O.B. Andriyashkin (ed.), The State resource management: Hunting and hunting resources of the Russian Federation. Special Issue, pp. 332–339. Young Guard – Style, Perm, Russia.

Gusev, O.K. 1966. Ecology and estimation of numbers in Sable. Lesnaja Promishlennost Publishing House, Moscow, Soviet Union.

Hagmeier, E.M. 1961. Variation and relationships in North American Marten. Canadian Field-Naturalist 75: 122–138.

Heptner, V.G., Naumov, N.P., Yurgenson P.B., Sludskii, A.A., Chirkova, A.F. and Bannikov, A.G. 1967. Mammals of Soviet Union. Vol. 2(1). Sea Cows and Carnivora. Vyshaya shkola, Moscow, Russia.

Inoue, T., Murakami, T., Abramov, A.V. and Masuda, R. 2010. Mitochondrial DNA control region variations in the Sable Martes zibellina of Hokkaido Island and the Eurasian Continent, compared with the Japanese Marten M. melampus. Mammal Study 35: 145–155.

IUCN. 2016. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2016-1. Available at: (Accessed: 30 June 2016).

Khlebnikov, A.I. 1977. Ecology of the Sable in West Sayan. Nauka Publishing House, Novosibirsk, Soviet Union.

Klevezal, G.A. and Kleinenberg, S.E. 1969. Age determination of mammals by layered structures of teeth and bones. Israel Program for Scientific Translations Press, Jerusalem, Israel.

Kolichev, V.B. 1976. Damage of Sable skins by some animals in traps. Proceedings of All-Union Research Institute of Hunting (Kirov, Russia) 54–55: 80–83.

Kurose, N., Masuda, R., Siriaroonrat, B. and Yoshida, M.C. 1999. Intraspecific variation of mitochondrial cytochrome b gene sequence of the Japanese Marten Mates melampus and the Sable Martes zibellina (Mustelidae, Carnivora, Mammalia) in Japan. Zoological Science 16: 693–700.

Li, B., Wolsan, M., Wu, D., Zhang, W., Xu, Y. and Zeng, Z. 2014. Mitochondrial genomes reveal the pattern and timing of marten (Martes), Wolverine (Gulo), and Fisher (Pekania) diversification. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 80: 156–164.

Ma, Y. and Xu, L. 1994. Distribution and conservation of Sables in China. In: S.W. Buskirk, A.S. Harestad, M.G. Raphael and R.A. Powell (eds), Martens, Sables, and Fishers: biology and conservation, pp. 255–261. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York.

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, G.I. 1976. Geographic variability and taxonomic structure of Sable of USSR fauna. Scientific Bulletin of the Institute of Animal Origin and Furs (Kirov, Soviet Union) 26: 54–86.

Monakhov, G.I. and Bakeyev, N.N. 1981. The Sable. Lesnaja Promishlennost Publishing House, Moscow, Soviet Union.

Monakhov, G.I. and Timofeev, V.V. 1965. Results of the first experiments on tagging Sable by radioactive isotopes. Scientific Bulletin of the Institute of Animal Origin and Furs (Kirov, Soviet Union) 13: 15–21.

Monakhov, V. 2012a. Martes and other mustelids in Southern and Middle Urals. Martes Working Group Newsletter 19: 42–45.

Monakhov, V.G. 1983. Age structure of Sable populations. Zoologichesky Journal 62: 1398–1406.

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

Monakhov, V.G. 2005. Age distribution in Sable Martes zibellina populations. Abhandlungen Berichte Naturkundemuseums Görlitz 76: 135–150.

Monakhov, V.G. 2006. Dynamics of size and phenetic structure of Sable in specific area. Uralskoe otdelenie Rossijskoi akademii nauk, Bank Kulturnoi Informatsii Publishing House, Ekaterinburg, Russia.

Monakhov, V.G. 2010. Records of Sable outside its range in southern Sverdlovsk region in winter of 2009–2010. Zoologicheskii Zhurnal 89: 1394–1397.

Monakhov, V.G. 2011. Martes zibellina (Carnivora: Mustelidae). Mammalian Species 43(1): 75–86.

Monakhov, V.G. 2012b. Selective capture as a destructive factor for exploited Sable population. Doklady Biological Sciences 443: 101–105.

Monakhov, V.G. 2012c. Craniometry of Martes species in Russian Far East and Japan. Martes Working Group Newsletter 19: 47–53.

Murakami, T. 2009. Martes zibellina Linnaeus 1758. In: S.D. Ohdachi, et al. (ed.), The Wild Mammals of Japan, pp. 250–251. Shoukadoh, Kyoto, Japan.

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

Pacifici, M., Santini, L., Di Marco, M., Baisero, D., Francucci, L., Grottolo Marasini, G., Visconti, P. and Rondinini, C. 2013. Generation length for mammals. Nature Conservation 5: 87–94.

Ranyuk, M.N. and Monakhov, V.G. 2011. Variability of Cranial Characters in Acclimatized Sable (Martes zibellina) Populations. Biology Bulletin 38(8): 821–833.

Safonov, V.G., Sinitsyn, A.A. and Minkov, S.I. 2006. The Sable problem made of bureaucrats. In: V.G. Safonov (ed.), Problems facing Sable management in Russia, pp. 188–205. All-Russian Institute of Hunting and Fur Farming, Kirov, Russia.

Sinitsyn, A.A. 2012. Harvesting of Sable on the abyss. In: V.G. Safonov (ed.), Modern problems of nature management, hunting and fur farming, pp. 421–422. All-Russian Institute of Hunting and Fur Farming, Kirov, Russia.

Sokolov, G.A. 1979. Mammals in Siberian stone pine forests. Nauka Publishing House, Novosibirsk, Soviet Union.

Sutula, V.I. and Popov, V.N. 2001. The Sable in Baikalsky Reserve. In: G.A. Sokolov (ed.), Rational use of sable resources in Russia, pp. 147–152. Krasnoyarsk State University Press, Krasnoyarsk, Russia.

Tavrovsky, V.A. (ed.). 1971. The mammals of Yakutia. Nauka Publishing House, Moscow, Soviet Union.

Timofeev, V.V. and Nadeev, V.N. 1955. The Sable. Zagotizdat Publishing House, Moscow, Soviet Union.

Timofeev, V.V. and Pavlov, M.P. 1973. The Sable. In: I.D. Kiris (ed.), Acclimatization of Game Mammals in the Soviet Union 1, pp. 51–105. Volgo-Vyatskoe Publishing House, Kirov, Russia.

Won, C. and Smith, K.G. 1999. History and current status of mammals of the Korean Peninsula. Mammal Review 29(1): 3–33.

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. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.

Zhu, Y., Li, B., Zhang, W. and Monakhov, V.G. 2011. Current status comparison of Sable conservation and utilization in Russia and China. Journal of Economic Animal 15(4): 198–202.

Zirjanov, A.N., Tumanov, I.L. and Kozhechkin, V.V. 2001. About peculiarities of Sable preying on musk deer. In: G.A. Sokolov (ed.), Rational use of Sable resources in Russia, pp. 101–103. Krasnoyarsk State University Press, Krasnoyarsk, Russia.

Citation: Monakhov, V.G. 2016. Martes zibellina. In: . The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T41652A45213477. . Downloaded on 23 June 2018.
Disclaimer: To make use of this information, please check the <Terms of Use>.
Feedback: If you see any errors or have any questions or suggestions on what is shown on this page, please provide us with feedback so that we can correct or extend the information provided