Wily weasel-like fishers were welcomed back to their homeland last week, when seven trapped in Canada were released into the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
Trapped to local extinction since the mid-1900s, fishers, a weasel-like animal with a lush fur coat, have returned to their historic home range in the South Cascades.
Seven fishers — three males and four females — trapped in British Columbia were released last week south of Randle, Lewis County, in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. It’s the first step of a relocation effort in the area by the nonprofit Conservation Northwest, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and other partners.
More information on fishers
To learn more and follow the South Cascade fishers’ travels, go online: http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/fisher/reintroduction_cascades.html
Follow the travels and doings of 90 fishers relocated to the Olympics 2008-2010: http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/fisher/updates.html
The fishers wasted not a second of their freedom: they zoomed out of the transport boxes as soon as they were opened, said Mitch Friedman, executive director of Conservation Northwest. The nonprofit helped fund the fishers’ relocation trapping by First Nations trappers in B.C.
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The organization also will help monitor the travels of the radio-tagged animals with wildlife cameras and volunteers.
Stocky, with dark-brown plush fur, fishers are related to mink, otter, badger, wolverine and marten. They are about the size of a cat and have a long, bushy tail, tiny round ears, short legs and a low-to-the-ground carriage as they move.
Native to the forests of Washington, fishers prey on small mammals, from mountain beavers to squirrels and snowshoe hare. They are one of the few animals capable of eating a porcupine.
Fishers thrived in Cascade and Olympic forests but were overtrapped and harmed by loss of habitat from logging and development.
There were no trapping regulations to protect fishers in Washington until 1934. Despite protection from trapping since then, the fisher still had not recovered, with no sightings in the South Cascades documented in at least 70 years, according to the Fish and Wildlife.
The release of seven fishers is just the start of an effort to rebuild populations by moving as many as 80 fishers within the next two to three years to the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mount Rainier National Park.
A relocation plan also is in the planning stages to move 80 fishers perhaps as soon as 2017 or 2018 to North Cascades National Park and the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.
It started in the Olympics from 2008-2010, with the release of a total of 90 fishers. The animals are now widely distributed and successfully reproducing, according to the Fish and Wildlife, a partner in that relocation effort as well.
Friedman said it was exhilarating to watch the fishers spring into their new home, bringing new life to the Cascades and starting to set right the mistake of losing them through lack of management and care for their home.
“We don’t have to live with that,” Friedman said. “It’s great to be part of making something better and fixing an old mistake.”