How Marijuana Helped Wipe Out This Super Cute Critter


Tom Hale


Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

Senior Journalist

The Humboldt marten doing its thing. Courtesy of Charlotte Eriksson/Oregon State University.

The Humboldt marten is in deep trouble. With fewer than 400 of these uber-cute (yet surprisingly vicious) creatures now living in California and Oregon, the species appears to be heading full-speed towards extinction. Could marijuana grow sites be to blame?

The usual suspects of logging, urbanization, and climate change are all responsible for the plight of the Humboldt marten; however, conservationists have also warned that cannabis cultivation, especially in northern California, could be adding fuel to the fire.


Humboldt County in California is thought to be home to over 10,000 cannabis cultivation sites (both legal and illegal) and has been dubbed “the heart of California’s dark marijuana economy”. To protect their precious crops from rats and other vermin, cultivators have been widely using anticoagulant rodenticides, poisons that are also toxic to the Humboldt marten and many other animals.

“Humboldt marten populations are also threatened by exposure to toxic pesticides, most commonly associated with the cultivation of cannabis,” the California Department of Fish and Wildlife explain in their recent status review of the animal.

Don't mess with the Humboldt marten. Courtesy of Mark Linnell/US Forest Service

Humboldt martens are a slinky-shaped carnivore from the same family as weasels, otters, and mink. They are amazingly stealthy, said to be capable of hunting porcupines by sneaking close to them and biting their face. The latest estimates say there are fewer than 400 martens left in a few fragmented populations along the wooded coastal areas of northern California and southern Oregon.

In light of this, the Center for Biological Diversity, along with five other conservation groups, has urged for stronger protection of the species. Just this week, they filed a petition asking the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to protect the Humboldt marten under the Oregon Endangered Species Act.

Courtesy of Mark Linnell/US Forest Service

The most tragic part of this tale is that the species was long considered extinct until it was finally spotted again in 1996. Now, just over 20 years after its rediscovery, it looks like they’re back to square one.

“Human activity nearly drove the marten to extinction,” said Tom Wheeler, executive director of the Environmental Protection Information Center, according to The Mercury News. “Because of the marten’s rediscovery, we were given another shot to save the Humboldt marten. We can’t blow it this time. We owe it to future generations and to the Humboldt marten.”

Remarkably, other species appear to be affected by cannabis cultivation in California. A recent study found hard evidence that owls living in the remote forests of Northern California were being exposed to toxic anticoagulant rodenticides linked to illegal grow sites. 


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