Washington state’s fisher population was wiped out entirely by the mid-1900s due to overtrapping for their lush pelts. Over the past decade, state agencies and nonprofits have been working to reintroduce them. Groups were released in Olympic National Park in 2008–2010, near Mount Rainier in the south Cascades in 2015, and in North Cascades National Park in 2018.
My sighting was notable because it shows that fishers have traveled to the halfway point between the north and south rehab areas.
State officials regularly conduct flights to monitor the fishers, which were outfitted with subdermal radio transmitters. Sightings like mine can help focus the flights over areas where fishers have been seen.
I shared my photos with biologists at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, which sent a flight over a few days later. The animal wasn’t detected. WDFW speculates that it was a rangy male looking for a mate, and he had probably already left the area. Another possibility is that it is a descendent of the southern group, and so it would not have a transmitter.
Fishers are a member of the weasel family and relatives of wolverines, otters and minks. Contrary to their name, they don’t eat fish, but dine on small animals such as snowshoe hares and squirrels. They are one of the few animals that can take down a porcupine. They hunt on both the ground and among the trees.
They are endangered in Washington state and are being considered for protection nationally.