A small native carnivore, smaller cousin the the wolverine, the Pacific fisher is an important member of older forests in the Pacific Northwest.
Pacific fishers, related to the smaller pine martens and larger wolverines, are the second largest terrestrial North American mustelid or member of the weasel family.
Throughout northern North America in the 1800s and 1900s, fishers, with fur as luxurious as mink, were much sought by trappers and heavily trapped. Extensive logging of the Northwest's old-growth forest spelled loss of the fishers' favored habitat: deep forests of large trees, standing snags, and downed logs.
By the 1930s, this small forest mammal, about the size of a house cat, had vanished from Washington's forests.
Protection status: Fishers have been protected at the Washington State level as an endangered species since 1998. Fishers are a candidate for listing and protection at a federal level.
What we are doing
In 2002, Conservation Northwest partnered with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and others to reintroduce and reestablish a native population of fisher to the Olympic Peninsula of western Washington. Fishers were released from 2008 to 2010 and are now having kits, and have been monitored as visiting most parts of the forested peninsula. Their return is an example of a successful and innovative partnership of public and private efforts to protect and preserve Washington's native wildlife.
Next up is their planned return to the Cascades.
Watch a video and slideshow of their 2009 release. Read about fishers by WDFW biologist Jeff Lewis.
More about fishers
Like most species in the weasel family, fishers (Martes pennanti) are successful hunters, curious and intelligent.
Even in areas where they are relatively abundant, fishers are secretive and rarely seen.
Fishers favor older forests with high canopy cover, and mature and old-growth forests. They rest, nest, and take cover in downed wood, high cavities in dead tree snags, and clumps of tree branches.
- Fishers are carnivores, hunting and eating small mammals like mountain beavers. Like other carnivores, they also relish carrion, a lot less work! Fishers are the only forest carnivore known to hunt porcupine with regular success–no small feat. (Cougars are known to eat porcupines, but not often.)
- Fishers range across North America where they haven't been wiped out locally. People have named them many things, including black cat, fisher cat, pekan, pequam, wejack, and woods-otter.
- Fishers are creatures of the forests, not water, and their favorite foods are small mammals, not fish. Their unusual common name is thought to come from the French word fichet, for the pelt of a European polecat. It may also have originated from trappers who used fish as bait to catch fishers.