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First documented fisher kits in the Olympics

May 28, 2009
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Biologists today confirmed the first sightings of newborn fishers in Washington State since restoration of the state-endangered species began two years ago.

First documented fisher kits in the Olympics

A female fisher carries one of her four kits from a denning snag. Photo: National Park Service

State and federal biologists confirmed today that remote camera images taken in Olympic National Park show newborn fisher kits. These images of a female fisher carrying four kits down a large snag offer the first evidence that fishers reintroduced into the park over the last two years have begun reproducing.

View more photos and video in the WADFW gallery 

The adult female in the photograph is one of the first fishers released near Antelope Creek in the Elwha Valley in late January 2008. Conservation Northwest is working with state and federal agencies to restore the once-native animal to its historical habitat. About one hundred fishers translocated from home forests in southern British Columbia will be released into the park over three years.

Pacific fishers, related to the smaller pine martens and larger wolverines, are the second largest terrestrial North American member of the weasel family. Throughout northern North America in the 1800s and 1900s, fishers, with fur as luxurious as mink, were heavily overtrapped. Fishers need big, old snags for dens, found in older forests, and extensive logging of the Northwest's old-growth forest spelled loss of the fishers' favored habitat. By the 1930s, this small forest mammal, about the size of a house cat, had vanished from Washington's forests. Like all predators, fisher play an important role in ecosystem health. The only forest carnivore known to hunt porcupine with regular success, fisher may decrease forest overgrazing by porcupines.

Conservation Northwest is thrilled that this effort to revive diversity in the Olympics ecosystem is a success. We look forward to more reintroductions of fishers to these forests later in 2009.

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