Fisher reintroduction meets project goals thanks to your support

Fisher reintroduction meets project goals thanks to your support

ConservationNWAdmin / Jan 11, 2020 / Fishers, Restoring Wildlife, Work Updates

Thanks to an 18-year collaboration initiated by Conservation Northwest, and the support of our members, donors and US, Canadian and Indigenous allies, fishers are back in Washington!

By Dave Werntz, Science and Conservation Director

Despite heavy snow yesterday, our staff and agency partners reached a goal that we’ve been working towards for nearly two decades: completing fisher reintroduction objectives in Washington.

With the release of four fishers at Mount Rainier National Park on Friday, and another four in the North Cascades near Darrington on Thursday, we’ve now released 85 fishers in the North Cascades, 90 on the Olympic Peninsula, and 81 in the South Cascades—significant steps toward recovering this native species.

READ MORE IN CROSSCUT, Watch coverage from KIRO 7 news, or videos of fishers returning to the North Cascades and Mount Rainier on YouTube!
A fisher released at Mount Rainier on Friday, January 10, 2020. Photos: Kevin Bacher, National Park Service

Our history with this collaborative project goes all the way back to 2002, when, thanks to our generous members and donors, Conservation Northwest helped kick-start the fisher reintroduction effort by funding a feasibility study to determine the best strategy to restore these amazing animals to our state.

Fishers are a member of the weasel family related to wolverines, martens and mink. They were driven to local extinction in Washington by the mid-1900s due to unregulated trapping and poisoning, as well as habitat loss in the forests they call home. They have been listed as a state-endangered species since 1998.

A fisher being released at Mount Rainier in January 2020. Photo: Kevin Bacher, National Park Service

In 2006, we worked with state and federal scientists on a fisher recovery plan outlining reintroduction objectives. Advocacy from our staff, members and activists then helped show decision-makers that there is strong public support among Washingtonians for restoring this native species.

In 2008, implementation of the plan began on the Olympic Peninsula through a partnership led by the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW), the National Park Service and Conservation Northwest with support from other state, federal, tribal and non-profit groups. Reintroduction continued in the South Cascades beginning in 2015, and in the North Cascades beginning in 2018.

The fishers return shows that despite today’s divided times, and many threats to our natural heritage requiring attention, when we work together, we can still do great things!

IF YOU’D LIKE TO SUPPORT FISHER MONITORING AND RESEARCH, AND OTHER EFFORTS TO PROTECT, CONNECT AND RESTORE PACIFIC NORTHWEST WILDLIFE AND WILDLANDS, PLEASE CONSIDER AN ONLINE DONATION.

The fishers released in Washington were humanely live-trapped in Canada through coordination by Conservation Northwest (read the story of their journey here), with support from The Calgary Zoo, local trappers, First Nations, Canadian Provincial Ministries and veterinarians.

Fishers released on the Olympic Peninsula and in the South Cascades originally came from British Columbia. After large fires there in 2017, fisher acquisition shifted to Alberta, where their population is robust. Obtaining fishers from two separate source populations is expected to boost genetic diversity in the reintroduced population.

Our Canadian partners have been vital to the success of this effort, and we deeply appreciate their support. They really care a lot about the animals, our restoration goals, and the scientific information that this collaborative project is generating.

Monitoring via radio tracking, hair snare stations and remote cameras, including through our Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project, will track fisher re-establishment and recovery in Washington in the years ahead.

“Our work this year represents progress in the collective effort to recover fishers in Washington,” said WDFW biologist Jeff Lewis. “People have been working tirelessly to restore this mysterious and rare carnivore to the Cascades, and now that reintroductions are complete, we think it’s likely that fishers will continue to settle into the recovery areas, find mates, and provide the foundation for a large, healthy population in Washington.”

Numerous First Nations and American Indian tribal partners provided crucial support throughout the life of the project. The first and final releases of fishers in the South Cascades occurred in the Nisqually Indian Tribe’s Designated Use Area in Mount Rainier National Park.

“By restoring fishers to Washington state, we’re restoring both our natural and cultural heritage for the enjoyment, education and inspiration of this and future generations,” said Tara Chestnut, Mount Rainier National Park ecologist.

Support and funding for fisher reintroductions comes from numerous sources, including WDFW, the National Park Service, Conservation Northwest, The Calgary Zoo, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, the U.S. Forest Service, Washington’s National Park Fund, Pittman-Robertson Funds and State Wildlife Grants, and State Personalized License Plates, among others.

Thank you to everyone who helped make this collaborative wildlife reintroduction project a success!

Washington is wilder today because of your support.

For the wild,

Dave Werntz

Science and Conservation Director, and fisher reintroduction program lead

LEARN more about fisher reintroduction ON OUR WEBPAGE
A fisher dashes through the snow after its release into Mount Rainier National Park. Photo: Paul Bannick, Conservation Northwest