Washington -(Ammoland.com)- Biologists today released seven fishers into Washington’s south Cascades mountains, where the reclusive, cat-sized mammal hasn’t been seen for more than 70 years.
The fisher is one of the larger members of the weasel family, which includes otters, badgers and wolverines. Fishers were eliminated from Washington by the mid-1900s through over-trapping and have been listed as a state-endangered species since 1998.
Today’s reintroduction was made possible through collaboration between the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), the National Park Service (NPS), Conservation Northwest and myriad other partners. These organizations previously worked together from 2008 to 2010 to release 90 fishers in Olympic National Park, where the species is now widely distributed and successfully reproducing.
“We’re excited to begin releasing fishers to another area of Washington where they lived historically,” said Penny Becker, wildlife diversity division manager for WDFW. “With abundant habitat, we think they’ll do well here.”
The fishers released today were captured in central British Columbia, similar to those released in Olympic National Park. Each of the three males and four females was confirmed to be in good health and equipped with a radio transmitter to allow biologists to track the animal’s movements.
The department and NPS will coordinate the monitoring of all fishers. Conservation Northwest will support ongoing fisher monitoring in the area with volunteers and remote cameras through its Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project. Updates about the released fishers will be posted on WDFW’s webpage at Cascade Reintroduction.
Over the next two to three years, approximately 80 fishers will be released in the south Cascades on federal lands, including at Mount Rainier National Park. Releases in the north Cascades are scheduled tentatively for 2017 or 2018.
“It’s thrilling to see these animals back in the south Cascades,” said Randy King, superintendent for Mount Rainier National Park. “We’re looking forward to the first release in Mount Rainier National Park.”
Fishers are native to the forests of Washington, including the Cascade mountain range. This elusive carnivore preys on various small mammals – mountain beavers, squirrels and snowshoe hares – and is one of the few predators of porcupines.
“With fishers returning to the Cascades, we’re restoring an important piece of the ecosystem and our shared natural heritage,” said Mitch Friedman, executive director of Conservation Northwest. “That’s something all Washingtonians should be proud of.”
Re-establishing viable populations of fishers in the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges are important steps to downlisting the species in Washington state.
The state recovery plan and the implementation plan for the Cascade fisher reintroductions can be found on WDFW’s webpage at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/fisher/reintroduction_cascades.html.
Sources of funding for the reintroductions include the National Park Service, Conservation Northwest, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state wildlife grants, Washington state personalized license plates, and funds from other partners.
More information about fishers and photos from today’s release are available on WDFW’s webpage at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/fisher/reintroduction_cascades.html.