Throughout the 1700s and 1800s fishers were relentlessly pursued for the value of their fur while concurrently their forest habitat was destroyed. Today fishers are striving to reoccupy much of their historical range.
The woods of New Jersey are alive once again with the unbounded energy of the solitary, nocturnal, carnivore known as the fisher – scientific name Martes pennanti. Eliminated over 100 years ago, the fisher is now making a remarkable comeback. Throughout the 1700s and 1800s fishers were relentlessly pursued for the value of their fur while concurrently their forest habitat was destroyed. Now, with improved wildlife trapping regulations, forest re-growth, and nearby reintroduction projects, fishers are striving to reoccupy much of their historical range.
The best description of a fisher would be to imagine a cross between a cat and a fox with the attitude of a wolverine. Weighing up to 20 pounds, fishers have soft, dark brown fur, and are approximately three to four feet in length including their bushy tails. They are often referred to as black cats in the Appalachian Mountains or fisher cats in New England. Their name is somewhat misleading as they are not cats and they don’t catch fish. Their name originates from early settlers who confused fishers with European polecats, known as fichet in France.
Fishers are the only animal that can consistently prey upon the heavily armored porcupine by using an elaborate hunting technique.
The prey of the fisher reads like a who’s who list of northern forests animals: squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, mice, raccoons, shrews, even martens and porcupines are all targets of this member of the weasel family. Fishers are the only animal that can consistently prey upon the heavily armored porcupine by using an elaborate hunting technique. When a fisher encounters a porcupine on the ground it chases it up a tree to a point where the porcupine can go no further and falls. The fisher will then climb down the tree headfirst, utilizing hind feet that it can rotate 180 degrees, and proceed to feed on the stunned porcupine. Timber companies release fishers in order to reduce the number of porcupines that can damage valuable trees. Fishers are also known to thin out weak or injured deer, especially in deep snow.
Previously thought to exist primarily in the boreal forests of Canada, fishers have recently been verified along the Kittatinny Ridge of northwestern New Jersey. In 2005, remote camera traps and snow tracking were used to determine if fishers were present in the state. After almost a year of searching, three photographs of a fisher were finally recorded on October 5, 2006, in Stokes State Forest. Since then, numerous additional fisher photographs and sightings have been reported as recently as February 2009. Fishers, cougars, wolves, bobcats, and even deer were virtually eliminated from the state at some point.
However, the effective management strategies of the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife and its partner organizations have helped declining species such as bald eagles and bobcats to recover and, in some cases, reach healthy population levels.
Fishers are an integral part of the natural heritage of New Jersey and their restoration is a testament to the quality of the state’s environment.
The return of the fisher to New Jersey signifies a pivotal moment in the future of human interactions with wildlife in which animals are appreciated not only for their economic value but also for their ecological role as well as aesthetic appeal. Elusive carnivores such as fishers are extremely important in balancing forest ecosystems by reducing rodent populations and competing with other predators that may negatively impact native plants and nesting birds. Fishers are an integral part of the natural heritage of New Jersey and their restoration is a testament to the quality of the state’s environment. It was once thought that the only way to see an animal like a fisher was to travel hundreds of miles north, but we now have the golden opportunity to spot the glorious fisher right here in the Garden State.
Find Related Info: Mammals