WILDLIFE -- Buoyed by a successful 2008 introduction in the Olympic Peninsula, wildlife biologists on Thursday released seven fishers into Washington’s south Cascades mountains, where the reclusive, cat-sized mammal hasn’t been seen for more than 70 years, state wildlife officials report.
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.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials say the project is a collaboration with the National Park Service, Conservation Northwest and other partners. These organizations joined from 2008 to 2010 to release 90 fishers in Olympic National Park, where fishers are reproducing and widely distributed.
“With abundant habitat, we think they’ll do well here,” said Penny Becker, WDFW wildlife diversity division manager said at the first south Cascades release site in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
In coming weeks, a team of wildlife officials will take fishers captured from British Columbia and relocate them to the southwest Cascades, including Mount Rainier National Park. The plan is to reintroduce 40 fishers a year for two years. Additional releases in the north Cascades are scheduled tentatively for 2017 or 2018.
Each of the three males and four females released Thursday was confirmed to be in good health and equipped with a radio transmitter to allow biologists to track the animal’s movements.
Updates about the released fishers, including any trail cam images, will be posted on WDFW’s fisher webpage.
Fishers are native to the forests of Washington, including the Cascade Mountains. This elusive carnivore preys on various small mammals – mountain beavers, squirrels and snowshoe hares – and is one of the few predators of porcupines.
Re-establishing viable populations of fishers in the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges are steps toward removing the species from endangered species protections in Washington under the state's Cascade fisher recovery plan.