(CNN) - There are fewer than 200 of the beady-eyed and bushy-tailed Humboldt marten in Oregon. But conservation groups are hoping that number will rise in light of new restrictions on trapping.
The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to ban the trapping of the Humboldt marten, a subspecies of the weasel family that's grown increasingly rare. The rule bars trapping in the two national forests in the state where the only two marten populations live.
There are fewer than 200 of the fuzzy, ferret-like animals left in Oregon's forests, according to a statement from a coalition of conservation groups that petitioned to protect them.
"I'm so relieved Humboldt martens will scamper wild and free in our coastal forests without fear of dying in a trap," said Tierra Curry, senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Banning trapping is a big first step toward safeguarding these cute creatures. Now we need wildlife crossings on highways and reconnected forest habitats."
The Humboldt marten, with its orange coat, pointy ears and squirrely disposition, is undeniably cute (though they are still considered a predator, even if they only weigh two pounds). But they've faced a torrent of threats, most human-made.
Once common in mountains along the West Coast, the diminutive marten's habitat has been eaten up by fur trapping, logging and even marijuana farming. Growers often use rat poison to protect their crop, which kills martens, the groups said.
They were driven out of Oregon's coastal mountains and onto the sides of highways, where, without forest cover, they're increasingly vulnerable to car deaths.
Oregon previously rejected a petition filed by six conservation groups in 2018 to protect the minute marten under the Endangered Species Act. They're currently listed a "species of concern" by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
The-CNN-Wire ™ & © 2019 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.