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(Martes zibellina), a valuable furbearing animal of the family Mustelidae. The general coloration ranges from light cinnamon to dark chestnut; there is a yellowish spot on the chest. The body is 43–53 cm long and weighs 0.9–1.9 kg. The females are considerably smaller than the males.
The sable is distributed in the forest zone from the Severnaia Dvina and Mezen’ rivers to the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Its range includes Karagin Island, Bol’shoi Shantar Island, the Kuril Islands, and Sakhalin Island. Outside the USSR the sable is found on Hokkaido Island (Japan) and in the northern regions of Korea, China, and Mongolia. There are several geographical forms, including small Far Eastern and Transbakalian forms and large Kamchatkan forms.
Sables live primarily in cedar and spruce-fir forests but are also encountered in pine and larch forests. They are terrestrial animals, climbing trees only rarely and finding shelter in the spaces between tree roots, in rocky debris, and in hollows in dead wood. Sables are active at various times of the day. They make seasonal vertical migrations into the mountains, and every five to seven years there are mass migrations over distances as great as 150 km as a result of an insufficient food supply and a decrease in population. Sables are omnivorous, feeding primarily on small rodents, the seeds of cedar and Japanese stone pine, whitebeam fruits, and red and bog whortleberries.
Mating occurs in July, and after a gestation period of 273 days—with a latent phase—three or four (rarely five) young are born. The young weigh about 30 g at birth, reaching adult size in four months. Sexual maturity is attained in the second year of life. There are two molts—one in spring and one in autumn.
Rapacious hunting has led to a decrease in the sable population, a decrease that began in the late 17th century and has continued for more than 200 years. Between 1930 and 1970 the sable population was restored to a total of 600,000–800,000. Of this number, 200,000 are caught annually. Sables are hunted commercially with rifles and dogs or in deadfalls, snares, or spring traps. Sables are often raised in cages on fur farms.
REFERENCESTimofeev, V. V., and V. N. Nadeev. SoboV. Moscow, 1955.
Dul’keit, G. D. Voprosy ekologii i kolichestvennogo acheta sobolia. Moscow, 1957.
N. N. BAKEEV