the way out here

Eyes on the prize

By HUNTER HILL
Posted 1/20/21

It was to my utter surprise that on my way to work I found a prize. This prize came to an untimely demise that was most certainly due to the singular focus of its eyes.

Why am I rhyming? Well, it …

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the way out here

Eyes on the prize

Posted

It was to my utter surprise that on my way to work I found a prize. This prize came to an untimely demise that was most certainly due to the singular focus of its eyes.

Why am I rhyming? Well, it just doesn’t sound as magical to say I found more roadkill.

For those who may be a tad hesitant since my last article on roadkill, I’d like to preface this one by noting that I will not be detailing any gruesome particulars, nor will this focus on roadkill as a subject.

Now for the question the rest of you are wondering: What did I find? In reality, I found two things at once. If not for the one, the other I believe wouldn’t have been there to be found. In my few short years, I’ve seen many things on the side of the road, a handful of which were worth taking home, and an even smaller handful of which possessed any kind of rarity. I dare say this may have been one of the most uncommon. As I rounded a corner on my way to work, I came across, of all things, a turkey. Yes, folks, I found a turkey dead along the side of the road. If you just felt a sudden sense of anti-climactic confusion, fear not, because what followed the turkey to its demise was the rare find: a mature fisher cat. You almost never find these animals slain by vehicle, but in this case, I have two working theories. Theory one: The cat was in pursuit of the turkey and the car struck and killed both on the blind corner. Theory two: The turkey was already dead along the road and in the fisher’s focus towards getting to it, it was killed mid-crossing. My money is on theory one because these are very smart animals that are rarely seen at all. Likely, as foreshadowed in my rhyme at the beginning, the fisher was caught in the heat of the moment, mere feet from catching up to its prey, before both were struck. Fortunately, for me, I happened to have a fisher permit, as I like to be prepared for situations just such as this, and I was able to retrieve the rare specimen and take it home.

In the past few years, the Pennsylvania Game Commission has begun to reinstitute measures to restore the fisher population, which is widely debated amongst outdoor enthusiasts agriculturalists and hunters. Over the past century and a half, many Pennsylvanian farmers have systematically taken measures to all but eradicate the nuisance predator from the state—the reason being that a single fisher will kill an entire flock of chickens or other small livestock. Fishers are fast, small-bodied and superior climbers. These traits give them a killer’s edge over other native predators, such as foxes, coyotes and even larger predators like bears. Fishers are so aggressive and uniquely capable of killing small animals that they are one of the only natural predators to porcupines, which, don’t get me wrong, are a nuisance on their own. Fisher cats will maneuver quickly around porcupines in order to catch them off balance and tip them over, gaining access to their non-quilled underbellies.

As a chicken farmer, I can’t say I’m too excited to see this one so close to where I live, but I do appreciate the opportunity to see one up close.

The way out here, we look for clues about the ecosystem around us by paying attention to animal sightings such as these. Where there is one, there is bound to be more. It is likely I will be spending more time this spring to improve security around the chickens. It is also likely that I’ll continue to purchase fisher permits as they are available in order to hold back the predators I face as a farmer. While beautiful, these predators were driven out of our area for a reason, and while exciting for some trappers to pursue, this is only the beginning of a larger issue to be faced by this generation of agriculturalists and naturalists.

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