A very unusual and rarely seen animal was recently spotted in the Walworth area. Some, who saw a dead animal last week in the road on Route 441 thought the animal might be a mink or a large house cat. It was discovered that the animal was a fisher cat. Never heard of them?
The fisher, also known as the ‘fisher cat’, is a large, dark, long-haired member of the weasel family. Their stature is relatively low to the ground, with short legs, small ears and a well-furred tail. The color of their fur varies from dark brown to nearly black.
Females and juveniles usually have a more uniform color, and males will have a blonde or grizzled appearance due to multi colored guard hairs around the neck, upper back and shoulders. Fishers are very capable predators, armed with agility, speed, sharp teeth and claws, and boundful energy.
They hunt throughout their territories through places where they know squirrels, mice, voles, birds, rabbits, hares, and even porcupines may be active, carrion from large mammals such as whitetailed deer.
They are apt in underground tunnels or snow passages and take down prey with a bite to the back of the neck.
Fishers also help control rodent populations, both large and small species, and have been reintroduced in some parts of the country to help keep in check forest-stand damaging porcupines. They increasingly appear to be filling, at least partially, a niche left vacant when top-tier predators (wolves and mountain lions mostly) were extirpated from the region.
Fishers have made a strong comeback in recent years and these medium-size mustelids are repopulating old territory after centuries of absence. They all but disappeared from the Northeast by the 1930’s and 40’s due a killer combination of habitat loss and high trapping pressure for its valuable pelt.
Fisher population has naturally rebounded. In the eastern U.S., fishers have grown their range – one was even seen in New York City a few years ago.
Recently they have begun to return to the southern tier of central and western New York, as some sightings and road kills have been reported from that region.
Their comeback and range expansion into unexpected places like cities and busy neighborhoods speaks to their resiliency and adaptability to modern conditions.
Special hunting permits are required. The special permit will enable the DEC to collect important data for managing fisher harvests.