Fisher Fishers (Pekania pennanti) are one of Rhode Island’s Evidence of this lineage was found during DNA stud- most thoroughly misunderstood . The , ies conducted by the University of Vermont on tissue commonly referred to by its misnomer “fisher ,” is samples collected from Rhode Island fishers. The New not a cat but a member of the , which Hampshire population has been the source of fishers also includes , , river , , that now occupy central and eastern , and . While definitely an efficient predator, eastern and all of Rhode Island. like many of its relatives, fishers are most impressive in their ability to infiltrate small livestock pens with In Rhode Island, fishers are generally common in Prov- apparent ease. Once common throughout North Ameri- idence, , and Washington counties where there is can and Canadian forests, fisher populations decreased appropriate habitat. In recent years they have become dramatically in the 1800s and early 1900s due to wide- established in Bristol County and mainland portions of scale deforestation and unregulated over harvesting. Newport County. They do not occur on the islands of Over the past decades fisher populations have begun to Narragansett Bay or Block Island. This reoccupation of recover thanks in part to forest restoration, agency rein- former range coincides with protection from exploita- troduction efforts, and science-based manage- tion and the regrowth of forests within New . ment programs. Today, fishers occupy a large portion of their former historic range. Behavior: Fishers are solitary, aside from their breed- ing season, which occurs between March and April. IDENTIFICATION Fishers are mostly nocturnal but can be active during daylight hours. They can be seen traveling on stone Fisher have an elongated body with short legs, walls at night or resting high up in conifers during the day. Fishers are active year-round but will seek large feet and a dark bushy . They have a out temporary dens in hollow logs or under rock out- pointed snout and rounded ears. Their is dark croppings when temperatures drop or to rest when not brown to black with white patches on the chest hunting for food. As is characteristic of other mustelids, and abdomen. fishers possess anal scent glands that contain a musky, strong smelling fluid. Scent and scat are used to mark Length: 36-48 in “scent stations,” such as stumps or stones, along travel Weight: Males 9-15 lbs, females: 4-6 lbs corridors, and are used to define territories. Lifespan: 10 years DID YOU KNOW? LIFE HISTORY ¾ Fishers are excellent climbers and have Range and Habitat: Fishers are a forest dependent , occuring in a variety of forested habitats such retractable . as upland hardwood, coniferous, mixed, second growth ¾ Fishers can rotate their hind feet almost 180⁰, and old growth forests. Availability of prey plays an allowing them to descend trees headfirst. important part in habitat selection and abundance. ¾ The “screaming” call heard during spring and summer nights is actually made by red , Efforts to reintroduce fishers into their former range not fishers. have proven successful in a number of states including ¾ The word fisher may have originated from the Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, , Vir- French word “fitchet,” used to describe the ginia and Wisconsin. There have been no reintroduction similar European . programs in Rhode Island. Fishers currently found in ¾ Fishers are one of the few predators that will Rhode Island are decedents of individuals that dis- attempt to take porcupines. persed from persistent populations in New Hampshire. Food Habits: Although excellent climbers, most Diseases: Fishers harbor and but other- hunting activity takes place on the ground where wise have relatively few parasites and incidence of easily captured prey is available. Fishers are oppor- disease is relatively low. , which can affect any tunistic predators, consuming any that they , has been confirmed only once in a fisher in can capture and kill, however, gray and red squirrels Rhode Island and only a few field studies have docu- along with small such as mice, , and mented sarcoptic mange in fishers (Lovallo, 2008). chipmunks are the mainstays of their diet. Fishers also utilize carrion (dead animals). They will eat a vari- REGULATORY STATUS ety of fruits (blueberries, autumn olive, crabapples, Fishers are classified under general law RIGL( 20- grapes) and nuts (beechnuts, acorns) when available. 16-1) as a protected furbearer in Rhode Island. Har- They will readily eat food left outside for and vest is strictly regulated by the DEM’s Division of . Examination of stomach contents of fishers in Fish and Wildlife to ensure the long-term viability Rhode Island shows the most common food items of fisher populations in the state. Carcass collection include small mammals such as mice, voles, red, gray, from trappers and provides valuable bio- and flying squirrels, as well as and an occasional logical information, such as population age structure, snake, , , or fish. dietary habits and reproductive potential. The taking of road-killed furbearers, including fisher, is prohibit- Reproduction: In the northeast, breeding season ed without special authorization from the Division of for fishers occurs during April, immediately follow- Fish and Wildlife. The law also does not allow for the ing birth of young. Fishers, like other mustelids, have random taking of wildlife, for the taking of furbearers delayed implantation, a process whereby the fertilized for their pelts outside the open season, or for killing egg does not immediately implant in the , but of animals outside the boundaries of the property of remains dormant until approximately ten months after the person with the problem. It does not allow for fertilization. Following implantation, the embryo de- unlawful methods of take such as , snares, velops within 30 to 60 days, with birth usually taking foothold traps, or discharge of firearms in violation of place the following March or April. Females have one state or local ordinances. The law states that animals per year consisting of two or three young, called taken must be reported to the DEM within 24 hours. kits. Males do not participate in the care of the kits. The DEM does not recommend that property owners Cavities within trees are used almost exclusively for attempt to live trap nuisance furbearers unless they natal den sites for the first few months, then females are prepared and willing to euthanize the offending frequently move litters around to different den sites. animal. State regulations prohibit the live capture and Fishers use brush piles, hollow logs, tree cavities, translocation of furbearers. Captured furbearers can vacant gray squirrel nests and rock piles as temporary only legally be released on the property on which they resting sites. Females nurse the young until they are were captured. almost fully grown (5 months) and able to catch prey on their own. Fishers become sexual mature after one year and will reproduce the following spring, at two years of age.


¾ Bring all animals in before dark. ¾ Bury enclosure fencing at least 1 foot down on all sides. ¾ Cover the top of outdoor enclosures. ¾ Frequently check enclosures for holes. ¾ Remove other potential food sources, such as outdoor pet dishes, unsecure trash bins, com post piles ¾ Never intentionally feed wildlife. It is illegal in Rhode Island and will create problems for humans and wildlife alike.

For more information about solving problems with wildlife visit: www.wildlifehelp.org

Fisher kits, Dean Birch