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Coyotes-Wolves-Cougars.blogspot.com

Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Friday, November 15, 2013

The Eastern Fisher is one of the carnivores that has made a solid comeback in Eastern Forests................ Historically, a combination of unregulated trapping and the clearing of forests for farms decimated fisher numbers........... By the early 1900s, the fisher was extinct in most of New England..........In the following decades, the porcupine population exploded in the absence of the fisher (their primary predator), and the porcupine’s habit of eating tree bark and subsequently killing trees led to widespread economic damage for landowners and timber-related businesses.............. The obvious remedy was to re-introduce the fisher, which state wildlife agencies began to do in the 1950s................... As fishers repopulated their historic range, porcupine populations (and damage) declined...........The fisher’s natural diet consists mostly of rodents, from voles to squirrels, plus snowshoe hare, grouse and the aforementioned porcupine............. They also eat carrion, apples, berries and nuts...............Thankfully back in the woods applying their solid ecological services work, their density is still low with home territories of 10 to 25 square miles for males and 3 to 8 square miles for females

The Fisher, Formidable Furbearer

The Fisher, Formidable Furbearer image
Illustration by Adelaide Tyrol
Of all our native mammals, none seems to elicit more disdain or hostility than the fisher. “Nasty,” “bloodthirsty” and “vicious” are some of the adjectives used to describe this animal, also referred to as the “fisher cat,” which is seemingly blamed for every housecat lost and chicken killed in New Hampshire and Vermont. The reputation is undeserved.
For openers, though cat-sized, the fisher is not a cat at all but rather the largest local member of the weasel family. The name “fisher” is likewise misleading, deriving not from an aptitude for fishing but probably from the French word “fichet,” the name for the polecat, a related furbearer species native to Europe.
The fisher’s luxurious winter pelt has been prized by humans for centuries, with the female pelt being softer and more silky than the male’s and hence in greater demand. Historically, a combination of unregulated trapping and the clearing of forests for farms decimated fisher numbers. By the early 1900s, the fisher was extinct in most of New England.
In the following decades, the porcupine population exploded in the absence of the fisher (their primary predator), and the porcupine’s habit of eating tree bark and subsequently killing trees led to widespread economic damage for landowners and timber-related businesses. The obvious remedy was to re-introduce the fisher, which state wildlife agencies began to do in the 1950s. As fishers repopulated their historic range, porcupine populations (and damage) declined.
Contrary to popular belief, fishers do not usually kill porcupines by flipping them over and attacking the belly. Autopsies of fisher-killed porcupines often show broken necks and smashed teeth, sure evidence of a fall. Indeed, eyewitness accounts describe fishers, excellent climbers, as harassing porcupines in trees by attacks to the face until the porcupines tumble. Yet even for this adept predator, attacking porcupines is a risky business and occasional fishers are found dead from quill injuries.
Only recently, as human development has spread deeper into our re-grown forests, has the fisher gained the reputation as a ruthless killer of housecats. Coyotes and foxes, however, are just as likely to take housecats, and these larger canines are generally more common than fishers. Red foxes, in particular, adapt well to the woodland edge habitat around rural homes. All three mammals, of course, are native to New Hampshire and Vermont, while housecats are not. The number of housecats killed by all the fisher, coyotes, and foxes combined is dwarfed by the number of native songbirds killed by the exotic housecat.
Besides killing housecats, tales circulate of fishers going on killing sprees in poultry yards, further adding to the fisher’s bloodthirsty reputation. However, killing more than one prey animal at a time is behavior not limited to fishers. Other predators, including coyotes, hawks and even raccoons, will do the same. Killing more than one meal’s worth at a time is an investment in the future because hunting success is unpredictable; thus many carnivores are in the habit of stashing extra food. Fishers typically haul carcasses up trees for storage or else bury them for later retrieval.
The fisher’s natural diet consists mostly of rodents, from voles to squirrels, plus snowshoe hare, grouse and the aforementioned porcupine. They also eat carrion, apples, berries and nuts, frequently revisiting areas where they have successfully obtained food in the past. Unwanted fisher attention can be avoided, therefore, by removing food sources. Take down birdfeeders that attract squirrels and other rodents and secure garbage, compost and pet food. Keep your cat indoors and your poultry and rabbits in protected coops and hutches.
Landowners who feel they must get rid of a problem fisher should know that it is illegal to take furbearers out of season without a license and only approved methods are allowed. Contact your local game warden for assistance.
Trapping of fisher has been legal in both states since the mid-to-late 1970s, making the fisher once again an animal of some economic importance. Through the 1980s, an average of 20,000 fishers were trapped per year across North America and Canada. In 2006, over 400 were trapped in Vermont and 500 in New Hampshire.
Despite their outsized reputation, fishers are in fact not very numerous; their population density is low compared to carnivores of similar size. Their home territory varies from 10 to 25 square miles for a male and 3 to 8 square miles for a female. For comparison’s sake, the typical town in New Hampshire or Vermont is comprised of 40 square miles or so. For all the hundreds of housecats that live in a typical town, therefore, there are probably fewer fisher than can be counted on two hands.
Li Shen is a member of the Thetford Conservation Commission and a scientist at the Dartmouth Medical School.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am fascinated with fishers and ALL the mustelid family! In fact, I have kept for many years now the only fully domesticated member of the weasel family--ferrets! Although Ranch Mink farmers might beg to differ about ferrets being the ONLY domesticated mustelid! Which, in reading/learning about, I discovered another factoid(you might find interesting) regarding a mustelid name(like the "fichet" mentioned above for the fisher)--the term "Polecat", which are the wild ancestors of ferrets(European Polecats, that is, not the U. S. colloquial usage of that term to name skunks!), is ALSO a French corruption of "Poule Chat"--which meand "Hen Cat", as Polecats(AND ferrets, I might add!!!) are absolute hell on chickens if they get in a henhouse! Apparently the southernmost of the original fisher range included the high ridges of the Great Smoky mountains on the N. C. /Tennessee border(where I used to live), but they have been extinct there for a century or more--I wish they'd reintroduce fishers back to that National Park as well!....L.B.

Rick Meril said...

They are back in NJ...........perhaps the Smokies at some point down the road............You are back with a burst of thought L.B.............good to have you aboard!