So, what is a fisher?
Please excuse the blur, these photos are from trail cameras. Fishers are members of the weasel family about the size of a house cat. Due to over trapping and habitat loss, they had been eliminated from Washington by the mid 1900’s. They were placed on the state-endangered species list in 1998.
Related to minks, otters, and wolverines, they are native to the forests of Washington. Elusive carnivores that they are, they prey on various small mammals including mountain beavers, squirrels, and snowshoe hares – and are one of the few predators of porcupines.
The National Park Service (NPS), Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Conservation Northwest, and Calgary Zoo released 89 fishers into the North Cascades National Park Service Complex and Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest from 2018–2020, as part of a collaborative effort to restore the species to Washington. Tagged fisher F105 was released on December 13, 2018, west of Darrington, WA.
She was recently caught on camera, on April 21, 2021 moving four kits out of her den. “Seeing her and her kits is a wonderful first indication that the North Cascades Ecosystem can support a reproductive population of fishers, and it’s a great sign for fisher recovery in Washington,” said Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Biologist Dr. Jeff Lewis. “We have high hopes that we will find additional females in the North Cascades having kits this spring.” Which begs the obvious question, where are boys?
“Seeing one fisher kit born in the wild North Cascades is a wonder; photos showing a group of wild kits is phenomenal,” said Dave Werntz, Science and Conservation Director for Conservation Northwest. “This new family is an auspicious sign that these reintroduced fishers are finding a good home in the North Cascades.”
“Bringing a species back to where they had once disappeared is a long and challenging journey, so we’re elated to see fishers from Canada contribute to this important milestone,” said José Luis Postigo, Calgary Zoo Population Ecologist. “As a conservation organization, we’re proud to have contributed our animal care, veterinary, and scientific expertise to this initiative and we celebrate the unwavering support and dedication of all the communities and partners that made this happen.”
The state recovery plan and implementation plan for fisher reintroduction in the Cascades can be found at: WDFW Species Habitat.
Sources of funding for the reintroductions include the National Park Service, Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, Conservation Northwest, Calgary Zoo, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington’s National Park Fund, Northwest Trek, state wildlife grants, Washington State personalized license plates, and funds from other partners.