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Fisher Facts

 
 Credits:  UNH Wildlife Profiles
    Written by Ellen J. Snyder, Wildlife Specialist, UNH Cooperative Extension.
    Desktop publishing provided by UNHCE Educational Marketing and Information 
    Office, University of New Hampshire.
     
Fisher
(Martes pennanti)
      Description:
      Fishers (locally called fisher-cat, although they're not related to cats 
      nor do they eat a lot of cats) have long, slender bodies with muscular, 
      short legs similar to their cousins--weasel, mink, marten, and otter. 
      Their thick, grayish-brown to brownish-black glossy fur tends to be darker 
      on females. White-tipped hairs on older fisher give a grizzled appearance. 
      Fisher have strong claws for climbing and a long, bushy, black, tapered 
      tail. Males average 4-12 pounds, about twice the size of females.
    Range and Distribution:
    Fisher are found from southeastern Alaska and British Columbia east to 
    northern Minnesota, upstate New York, northern New England, and eastern 
    Canada and south to the California Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Rocky 
    Mountains in Wyoming.
    Once common throughout New England, fisher declined due to over-trapping, 
    logging, and land conversion. Trapping regulations and agricultural 
    abandonment leading to natural reforestation enabled fisher populations to 
    rebound throughout the Granite State.
    Habits and Habitat:
    Fisher, although carnivorous, generally eat whatever comes along. Their main 
    prey include snowshoe hare, porcupine, small mammals (mice, voles, shrews, 
    moles) , and squirrels (gray, red, and flying squirrels). They also feed on 
    birds, amphibians, insects, fruits, nuts, and carrion. They help keep mice 
    and vole numbers under control. Fisher kill porcupines by repeated swift 
    attacks to the face and head. After killing the porcupine, the fisher flips 
    it over on its back and starts eating the belly. Mating occurs in March and 
    April with a litter of 1-6 (average is 3) kits born nearly a year later. 
    Females usually give birth in a tree cavity 20-30 feet off the ground.
    Fishers are solitary except during the mating season. Fisher travel along 
    ridges, crossing stream valleys to reach the next ridge.
    They range widely in search of food, traveling up to 60 miles on some 
    hunting forays. They regularly travel over 10-20 square miles, although this 
    home range is not defended. Fisher are active throughout the year, mostly at 
    night, sunrise, and sunset.
    Fisher occupy mature softwood, mixed hardwood-softwood, and forested 
    wetlands. The amount of structural diversity is likely more important as 
    habitat criteria than the tree species and forest types. Fisher use hollow 
    trees and logs, rocky outcrops, old porcupine dens, root masses, and brush 
    piles as den sites and hunting areas. They'll tear apart decaying snags in 
    search of their prey. To keep warm during cold spells they seek shelter in 
    these temporary dens or under the snow. The meandering tracks of fisher are 
    easily seen on snow cover in winter, whereas the animal itself is elusive. 
    Deep snows, however, limit the mobility of fisher.
    Management
    The following management strategies will help maintain fisher habitat:
      Retain a diversity of dead, dying and down woody material, including 
      cavity trees. 
      Retain or create dense forest patches of softwood understory cover. 
      Release and maintain wild apple trees. 
      Create small forest openings to enhance vegetation diversity and prey 
      abundance. 
      Minimize fragmentation of forested habitat from development. 
        
    UNH Cooperative Extension programs and policies are consisternt with 
    pertinent Federal and State laws and regulations on non-descrimination 
    regarding age, color, disability, national origin, race, religion, sex, 
    sexual orientation, or veteran's status. College of Life Sciences and 
    Agriculture, County Governments, N.H. Division of Forests and Lands, 
    Department of Resources and Economic Development, N.H. Fish and Game 
    Department, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. 
    Fish and Wildlife Services cooperating.
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