And come more snow, more sleet, ice, 40mph winds, negative air temps, more snow, and lots and LOTS of rain. Come a landscape fraught with avalanche hazards (once again). Crews are tucked quietly away in the meantime, waiting for better conditions for plot removal. And Photo Warriors are at attention, waiting for the action to explode.
What better time than this for another Cool Carnivore Critter? This mustelid has already made an appearance at a couple of our wildlife stations, and I suspect we will be seeing more of her in photos to come…
The Pacific Fisher, Martes pennanti.
Historic ranges for Fisher include much of Canada, the northern United States, and the western United States. Current populations are significantly lower than these original distributions, with the animals having suffered habitat loss due to timber harvesting activities, species decline due to trapping, and range reduction due to habitat fragmentation.
Fisher utilize a wide variety of habitats, and, for this animal, the structure of the habitat may be more important for their needs than the actual plant species composition. Fisher are more often found in late-successional stage forests, where there are lots of opportunity for denning sites and good prey availability. They are generally found at low to mid-elevations, and often times they seem to prefer steeper slopes, nearby water sources, and dependable winter snowpack. They tend to prefer coniferous or mixed forest stands with good cover, and tend to avoid open areas and hardwood stands.
When it comes to food sources, the Fisher is a generalist. Food sources vary according to location, but common meals for this animal may include rodents, rabbits, squirrels, birds, insects, carrion, fungi, plants and berries. A few larger carnivores, coyote, wolverine, lynx, and mountain lion, may be incidental predators of the fisher.
Fisher spend most of there lives as solo individuals, getting together with other fishers primarily to seek out mates. Fisher kits are born late winter-early spring. A mother Fisher bears litters of 1-3 kits. Kits are weened by 3 months, and usually conduct dispersal by 1 year of age. It is possible for a Fisher to live up to ten years.
Can you identify a Fisher? Males are generally slightly bigger than females, but on average these animals are 29-47 inches long, weighing anywhere from 3.5 to 13 pounds. They can be light brown to darker brownish-black. They often have greying fur around their faces and white fur patches on their underside. Their legs are short and their tails are long and bushy. Common look a-likes are the American Marten and the American Mink. Can you tell which is which?