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The Most Adorable "Dumpster Diver"

While leading a photo tour of Yellowstone National Park by snowcoach, we parked at the yurts near Old Faithful to enjoy our wonderful packed lunch. While everyone was getting out of the snowcoach, I mentioned I briefly saw a pine marten here last week. It was living under the boarded walkway up to the yurts. Soon someone excitedly said, "there is a nose peering out of that hole under the walkway!"

Sure enough, the pine marten was home and anxious to come out. I gathered my group together and we stood quietly by the rear of our snowcoach next to a lodgepole pine tree. With cameras in hand, all were hoping to make a photo of this elusive predator - as it loves to eat squirrels and anything else it can overpower. Within a minute or two, the unthinkable happened. I seldom see pine martens, and most members of my tour group had never seen one - except for the nose they just saw of course. Indeed, having led more than 100 week long photo tours during winter in Yellowstone, never has any member of my groups had a chance to photograph one.

The pine marten bolted from the hole in the snow and over to the tree where we were. In a moment, it scampered up the tree and calmly perched on a tree branch about ten feet up and looked my group over. Naturally, everyone was photographing the pine marten furiously. After a few minutes, the marten ran down the tree and posed in the snow briefly, and then bounded right over to me. It was too close to photograph, and I did wonder why it came so close, but soon the answer became apparent. We happened to be parked adjacent to some dumpsters covered in snow, and while most were locked to keep bears out, one lid was bent. The pine marten leaped up on the dumpster and disappeared in the crack made by the lid into the dumpster.

All remained quiet for a couple of minutes, and then the pine marten reappeared and scampered back to the hole under the walkway with a hamburger firmly secured between its teeth, and did not come back out. So now we know the story. This marten has found the dumpster with food scraps in it and the bent lid allowed access, so the pine marten has become a highly successful dumpster diver.

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