Biologists caught Lilly the fisher on camera and with a kit. Fishers were driven out of Washington decades ago, and biologists are attempting to reintroduce the members of the weasel family to the south Cascades.
If Tinder’s advent gives any indication, it’s no easy feat for people to find a partner, even with thousands of potential options wandering about town.
Take a moment, then, to congratulate Lilly the fisher, who quickly found a mate among only a few dozen suitors in the vast expanses of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
Lilly, also known as fisher No. 23, is one of 69 fishers released into that forest and in nearby Mount Rainier National Park during the past two winters as part of an effort to reintroduce the species to the South Cascades.
For her, nature’s algorithm and a strong musk seemed to work just fine.
A grainy game camera earlier this month caught Lilly running down a tree, carrying a kit in her mouth — proof, biologists say, that fishers are reproducing. It’s a milestone in the effort to reintroduce the members of the weasel family to the Cascade Mountain Range.
With “any kind of reintroduction project, you need to see you’re re-establishing a self-sustaining population,” said Jeff Lewis, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) biologist. “This is the first indication fishers are effectively reproducing (in the South Cascades) … it’s a good first sign.”
“It’s exciting to see this so quickly after the animals were reintroduced,” said Chase Gunnell, a spokesman for Conservation Northwest, a nonprofit working on the project along with WDFW and public-lands agencies.
Decades ago, fishers were driven out of Washington by trappers seeking their soft pelts. In 2008, WDFW began reintroducing the mammals in Olympic National Park, where fishers are now bounding all over the peninsula.
In 2015, the effort expanded to the South Cascades. Trappers captured fishers in British Columbia, and brought them to Washington, where they were released to great fanfare.
Biologists have been tracking the animals with radio receivers that detect implanted transmitters. Flying over the South Cascades, biologists can hear a unique radio chirp for each individual fisher. The signal lasts for about two years.
This year, Lewis was on a mission to find out if the fishers were denning. His weekly radio check-ins showed Lilly wasn’t moving as much as her long-traveling counterparts.
“We saw her have a really nice, tight clump of points” when her location was plotted on a map, said Lewis, which indicated she might have settled down.
Lewis hiked to the area where Lilly kept popping up. On a second attempt, he found some fisher scat and a good-looking tree for a den.
A game camera earlier this month snapped Lilly and her kit within 10 miles of where biologists released the new mother a year and a half ago.
“She found a spot that wasn’t that far away, which is a great thing. We don’t want them to have to travel around too much to find a good place to live,” he said, because they’re more likely to survive and find each other for reproduction.
Because Lilly was too young to be pregnant when she was released, Lewis said the kit on camera offers proof fishers are finding each other and multiplying.
Soon, they could be thriving throughout the Cascades.
“If everything goes as planned, we could expect to be releasing fishers into the North Cascades in December and January,” Gunnell said.