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Meeting a Fisher

Fisher Cat

I saw a Fisher (also called a Fisher Cat) on my hike up Mt. Passaconaway a few months ago. She was loping down the trail toward me until she noticed that I was standing still about 25 feet away. We regarded each other for about 5 seconds and she turned and skiddadled into the brush beside the trail. I didn't get the sense that she was very scared of me.

I've never seen a Fisher before, though I'd heard they've made a remarkable recovery in New England after being trapped to near extinction in the early 1900's for their pelts. They can be found throughout the northern part of North America and Canada and as far south as the Appalachians in West Virgina.

Fishers have a reputation as being aggressive hunters. While they prefer eating rabbits and porcupines, they are considered generalist predators, and will eat mice, voles, moles, squirrels, carrion, insects, nuts, and even mushrooms. When found near urban areas, they are also known to eat stray dogs and cats.

They have no major natural enemies, but they are highly territorial and solitary except during the mating season, with males ranging for 30 square miles and females, 10 square miles. They are most active during dawn and dusk hours and travel over ridges between river and stream valleys.

Fishers are active year round and have large feet for moving around on snow pack. They have five toes on each foot with unsheathed retractable claws, and ankles joints that can rotate 180 degrees, making them extremely agile tree climbers.

Fisher males range from 7 to 12 lbs in size, with females half as large.

The fisher I saw must have been a female, based on her size. Her fur was a very dark grey, almost black in color.

I was lucky to see her, but that's one of the advantages of getting up early and setting out in the early morning. I encounter all kinds of wildlife on my morning hikes, from deer to wild turkey, that others never get to see.

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7 comments

  1. I don't like their cry…or hunting voice…. Too freaky

  2. Now that is a rare treat! I have seen tracks but never the Fisher in person. They were reintroduced in the local PA state forests back in the 90’s. I have seen their tracks in unbroken re-growth of hemlock and white pine. Hopefully I’ll get to see one someday.

  3. C'mon, mention the other great benefit to starting out early: Clearing the trail of spider webs for later arrivals. :-)

  4. Cobwebs. They have lots of protein.

  5. I caught a brief glimpse of one once–thought it was a black lab at first. From my recollection Pennsylvania reintroduced them because they're an effective predator of porcupines, which cause a lot of tree damage in state forests. I later saw a mauled porcupine in the same area so it seems they're doing their job.

  6. Anything that hunts and eats porcupines has my respect.

    Good photo!

  7. A Fisher came out on the road right in front of me when I left camp about 80 km’s South of the of the Canadian Yukon and North West Territorries boarder, it was early Christmas morning 2012 and I had the high beams on so it provided a good look when he paused and stared at the truck, I usually just see a dark image crossing the road far ahead, I also had the good fortune to see a Wolverine feeding on a road kill moose on the way to the plant a few months ago.

    Beautiful Creatures!

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