Thursday, January 03, 2008

Fishers Out of the Wilderness

The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mammals, published in 1980 says of the fisher, an animal not shy about defending itself, “A valuable fur-bearer, with female skins especially prized, in many areas it has been extirpated; loss of habitat has also depleted populations, for it requires extensive wilderness.”

If that was true then, it’s not so much now. Three or four years ago an acquaintance who was the head of Bedford Audubon told me that someone who knew what he was talking about found fisher tracks in northern Westchester, which, despite some areas of intact habitat, is not quite an extensive wilderness. And for a few years there have been reports of a fisher in southeastern Connecticut.

The other day, Rae-Jean Davis, an animal control officer for the town of Stonington, caught one, the New London Day reported:

… a snarling, hissing fisher, which rushed the side of the cage when it saw her approach …

She said she was concerned the fisher would come out of the cage and bite her. She used a leash to open the front door of the cage while standing behind it. She said the slightly woozy animal then ran off into the woods off Chesebro Lane, just outside the borough.

Reports of fisher cats in southeastern Connecticut have increased in recent years. The state Department of Environmental Protection reintroduced fisher cats into northwestern Connecticut in 1989, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that fishers live in the woodlands of the proposed route for the extension of Route 11.

In 2005, residents of a Gales Ferry neighborhood were convinced that fishers were responsible for the disappearance of numerous cats, squirrels and ducks.

The fisher – Martes pennanti – is a weasel, bigger than a marten or a mink. The Audubon guide says the origin of its common name is unknown, but it adds, “If disturbed, it hunches its back like a cat and may hiss, snarl, growl, or spit,” which presumably accounts for why some people call it a fisher cat. If you’re wondering how tough it is, it likes to eat porcupines. It will also eat your house cat if it wants to.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where I live in Hebron, (that's in Connecticut for you Fairfield County Folks), we have been getting numerous reports of Fishers, suggesting they are now fairly common

7:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A fisher cat was seen on my property in Griswold on 12/28/07, and my one year old cat disappeared on 12/29/07. Last spring, my neighbor's 20 chickens were all killed by a fisher.

3:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Weston, CT - Late one night about 18 months ago, I heard something getting into our garbage and turned my floodlight on to find an animal I had never seen before - I had to run to the computer to see what it was and quickly found out it was a fisher! I was amazed. It was not afraid of the light and just slowly crept away when I banged on the window. It was significantly bigger that a large raccoon.

10:38 PM  

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