When going to college in the Adirondacks I spent my spare time trapping. While doing so I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to trap an animal that wasn't found in the rest of the state. Although not an overly shy animal, he was hard to put a trap on because he wasn't a very plentiful furbearer and he was a great roamer. I was lucky to catch two, one of which I sold the pelt of while the other hangs on my wall to this day.
The fisher, also called a fisher cat, is a black or dark brown forest-dwelling member of the weasel and wolverine family. The fisher look like a marten or mink except larger. The male (8 to 15 pounds) is about twice the size of the female (4 to 6 pounds). A neat feature of the fisher is its very large paws with semi-retractable claws and hind feet that can rotate 180 degrees, giving it exceptional climbing ability in trees. An old Adirondack trapper, E. J. Dailey, told me once he saw one catch a squirrel running through the tree canopy. Fishers also den in tree cavities, usually very high up.
The fisher can be a very savage animal; it's an opportunist that takes many animals and birds. Fishers will dine on carrion and eat seeds and fruits when available. In the Adirondacks their food staples are snowshoe rabbits, squirrels and porcupines. Yes, porcupine; fishers are the only animal that will take on a porkie and win. They are so fast that they can get to the porkie's head (where there are no quills) and slowly weaken him until he gets to a point where he can be rolled over enough to hit his belly, which is also void of quills.
Another cool feature about this animal is its reproduction method. Fishers are solitary animals with the exception of mating season (the male doesn't help with the raising of the young). Mating takes place in March and early April but there is delayed implantation and the actual birthing doesn't take place until mid- February the following year.
The fur presently is worth between $30 and $40.
Back in the early 1900s their fur was worth up to $100 and because of this and heavy logging operations (habitat loss) the fisher became a very rare animal only found in the Adirondacks. By 1934, the fisher was given complete protection until the early 1960s, when again a trapping season was opened in the Adirondacks. Later some Adirondack fishers were live trapped and reintroduced in the Catskill mountains.
In recent years the fisher has spread across the state and has learned to adapt to farm land. Today there is a six-day fall trapping season for fisher in many areas in the Southern Tier. Surprisingly, the fisher's numbers in the Adirondacks reportedly are declining.
These animals are great roamers and they have been moving into our area. This past month, two reportedly were killed on roads in Niagara County, and I have heard of others being caught on deer hunters' trail cameras. Other road kills and sightings have been reported for a few years now in our area.
Fishers have learned to adapt to farm land and new food sources. This animal is getting a reputation for raiding chicken coops now and it also like to eat cats.
Now, I like cats that are kept under control, but I have no love for those that are allowed to roam uncontrolled (this actually is a people problem) as they are great destroyers of birds, rabbits and other smaller mammals, killing many times just for the “sport” of it. So, maybe the fisher will help us with our feral cat problems.
This character is very fast, aggressive and bold, so caution is advised if you should encounter one. I think fishers will be become a problem to some extent in our area and I am looking for a local trapping season to be set for them in the not too far future. Because they are a predator that is very agile in trees, I foresee the possibility of them preying on some of our nesting birds, especially the bald eagle. Hopefully trappers will be able to keep their numbers in check.
Doug Domedion, outdoorsman and nature photographer, resides in Medina. Contact him at (585) 798-4022 or email@example.com .