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Have you seen a fisher?

The fisher is the second largest member of the weasel family in Pennsylvania; the river otter is the largest. Both can be seen at the WCD.

April 26, 2012

HONESDALE, PA — The latest taxidermy mount to be added to an ever-expanding display of animals at the Wayne Conservation District (WCD) is the fisher, a mid-size carnivore characterized by a long darkly-furred body, short legs and a full tail.

Also referred to as tree otter, tree fox and fisher weasel, this mammal sports an appealing triangular face topped with wide rounded ears and oval pupils that produce a green eyeshine at night. Adult males weigh seven to 12 pounds; adult females weigh four to seven pounds.

Fishers climb trees easily with their sharp, curved, semi-retractable claws and forage both in the tree canopy and on the forest floor. They have diverse diets that include an opportunistic mix of small mammals, reptiles, insects, fruits and fungi. They seldom eat fish, but are one of the few successful predators of porcupines.

Fishers become able to reproduce by the age of one year, and prefer den sites in tree cavities high above the forest floor. One to six cubs are born from late February to May with their eyes and ears closed and are completely dependent on maternal care. Their coat is silver-gray until three to four weeks of age, when it becomes the typical chocolate brown of the adult fisher.

According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC), fishers were distributed throughout most of the state prior to the deforestation that occurred in the 19th century, as well as early colonial development. Populations declined steadily and resulted in extirpation within the state.

Fishers have since returned to Pennsylvania as a result of expansion from adjacent states and reintroduction programs. During 1994-1998, through a joint project between the PGC and Pennsylvania State University, 190 fishers were reintroduced in six sites in northern Pennsylvania. Populations are increasing throughout southwestern, central and northern regions.

See the fisher and other taxidermy mounts at the WCD office in the Park Street Complex in Honesdale, PA. WCD staff are developing an expanded educational area featuring resources related to wildlife of the region.