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A small native carnivore, smaller cousin the the wolverine, the Pacific fisher is an important member of older forests in the Pacific Northwest.

Martes pennanti

Fisher. John Jacobson/WDFW
Fisher. John Jacobson/WDFW

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 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.

Beginning in 2002, Conservation Northwest partnered with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, National Park Service and other partners to reintroduce and reestablish a native population of fisher to the Olympic Peninsula of western Washington. 

Next up is their planned return to the Cascades

What we are doing

At fisher release, Olympic NP.
At fisher release, Olympic NP.

Fishers were released from 2008 to 2010 in and around Olympic National Park 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. Current estimates suggest that as many as 80 fishers are now living and breeding naturally on the Olympic Peninsula. 

Funding for fisher reintroduction comes by way of generous support from Conservation Nothwest donors, the National Park Service, State Wildlife Grants, State Non-game Personalized License Plates, USFWS, a grant provided by the Wildlife Conservation Society from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and other partners.

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.
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