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Feds propose listing fishers as threatened

WILDLIFE — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced it is seeking comment on its proposal to protect the West Coast population of fisher as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. 

About the size of large house cats, fishers belong to a family of mammals that includes weasels, mink, martens and otters. Fishers live in low- to mid-elevation forests requiring cavities in trees and snags to rear their young and make use of cavities in the trunks of trees, snags and hollow logs and natural platforms for resting and security from predators.

Fishers have been part of forests of the Pacific states for thousands of years, but they have virtually disappeared from much of Washington, Oregon and California.

n its evaluation, the USFWS has identified a number of threats to the fisher, including habitat loss and change due to wildfire, certain timber harvest practices in some areas, and the relatively recent and troubling threat posed by rodenticides.

“This is a complex and challenging issue because threats to the fisher vary across its range,” said Robyn Thorson, director of the Service’s Pacific Region. “We are actively seeking input from the public and stakeholders to help determine the magnitude, severity and scope of those threats in each part of its range in California, Oregon and Washington to ensure we base our final decision on the best information available.”

The proposed listing rule is on view at the Federal Register today and will officially publish Oct. 7, opening a 90-day comment period to gather scientific information and comments. 

The listing proposal cites the potential of direct and indirect exposures from the illicit use of anti-coagulant rodenticides on public and community forest lands within fisher habitat as a significant threat to the species.  Rodenticide use has been verified at illegal marijuana cultivation sites within occupied fisher habitat on public, private and tribal lands in California.

Some types of timber harvest and alteration of fisher habitat continue to be a concern. USFWS officials say they're hoping to work with federal, state and industry partners to manage this threat.

“The timber industry has been a longstanding and valued partner in efforts to conserve the fisher to date and will continue to be so should the Service list the species,” said Ren Lohoefener, director of the Service’s Pacific Southwest Region. “We stand ready to work collaboratively with federal, state and private entities to ensure a strong and healthy future for our Pacific forests, the livelihoods they support, and the fisher, while minimizing disruption to timber practices.”

Fishers are found throughout North America, but the West Coast DPS has been reduced in size, and fishers are now found in only two native populations within their historical range, which once covered most of the forested landscapes in California, Oregon and Washington.

In California, there are estimated to be 300 or fewer fishers in the Southern Sierra Nevada Mountains, and a population in the Klamath Mountains of northern California and southern Oregon could number from a few hundred to 4,000. There has also been a reintroduction effort in the Northern Sierra Nevada Mountains, where 40 fishers were released beginning in 2009. Fishers are considered likely extirpated from Washington and much of Oregon, with the exception of a reintroduced population on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington, where 90 fishers were released. An established population also exists in the Crater Lake area of Oregon where there was a reintroduction effort during the 1970s and 1980s.

Public comments will be accepted through Jan. 5, 2015.

Specific guidance on types of information the Service is seeking and for submitting public comments can be found in the Federal Register notice at https://www.federalregister.gov (search for key word “fisher”), or on the agency website at: http://www.fws.gov/cno/es/fisher.  Comments and information can be submitted by one of the following methods:

• Electronically at http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter FWS–R8–ES–2014–0041.  You may submit information by clicking on “Comment Now.” 

Fisher gives rare photo op

WILDLIFE — Idaho Fish and Game Department researchers used bait and a motion-activated remote camera to photograph the fisher shown above.  Seeing these critters in the Inland Northwest is very rare without taking such lengthy measures.

These large, quick members of the weasel family are common in the Northeast and Midwest, but rare in the Northern Rockies and Northwest, where they are one of the rarest carnivores.  A reintroduction project has been underway for several years on Washington's Olympic Peninsula.

In all my outdoor travels, I've seen a fisher only three times.  The most recent was shortly after I began hiking the Goose Creek Trail to Goose Lake in the Clearwater National Forest just south into Idaho from Hoodoo Pass.

Fast Facts

Length: 3 feet (including 15 inch tail).
Weight: 12 pounds (males); 8 pounds (females).
Lifespan: About 7 years.

A fisher has a long, slim body with short legs, rounded ears, and a bushy tail. Fishers are larger and darker than martens and have thick fur. Fishers are agile and swift and are also excellent climbers.

—Defenders of Wildlife