Forbidden catch, happy ending: Minnesota trapper uses CPR to save wayward marten

a small brown animal
A trapper revived this pine marten after accidentally catching it in a bobcat trap set in northern Minnesota.
Courtesy of Nicholas Prachar

Updated: Jan. 4, 4:10 p.m. | Posted: Jan. 3, 4:25 p.m.

When a northern Minnesota trapper recently checked one of his traps set in hopes of catching a bobcat, he discovered an illegal catch.

An out-of-season pine marten was in the trap and appeared to be dead. As is required by law, the trapper called a DNR conservation officer to report the illegal catch.

“He called me almost in tears saying he had a pine marten in his bobcat set and that he didn't want the animal to die,” said conservation officer Nicholas Prachar.

“And as I was on the phone with him, he said, ‘Oh, hold on, the eyes just moved.’ And next thing I know he hung up on me.”

The man called Prachar back a few minutes later to say he had revived the animal.

“He described to me in great detail how he actually put his lips on the nose of the pine marten and blew air into it.”

The trapper put the animal into his enclosed all terrain vehicle.

Prachar drove to the scene in northern Beltrami County and helped release the revived and “very angry” pine marten.

A small animal peers in the snow
A pine marten in northern Minnesota in 2019.
Flickr | Courtesy of Larry Reis

He also viewed a video taken by the trapper’s wife that confirmed the sequence of events. The trapper’s response was so unusual, Prachar included it in his weekly report of notable activity.

The trapper told Prachar he was so unsettled by the incident he decided to collect all 10 of the bobcat traps he had set in the area. The DNR did not release the trapper’s name, and said the man did not want to be interviewed.

Minnesota sells licenses for people to trap bobcats for their pelts for about five weeks each winter. The DNR, which has collected harvest data about them and other species for decades, reports that less than 500 bobcats were trapped in the 2022-2023 season.

Prachar believes the pine marten survived the body-grip trap designed to quickly kill an animal because it is much smaller than the bobcat the trap is designed for.

Out-of-season pine marten catches are relatively rare, according to Prachar, who said he fields about one such call a season. But he’s never had one that involved CPR and a revived animal.

“It scampered off into the woods and lived to tell the story to its friends,” he said.