Fisher Research and Conservation

Fisher Research and Conservation

Female fisher (Cale Meyers / Hoopa Tribal Forestry)

Fishers, known to science as Pekania pennanti, although slightly smaller than their powerful cousin the wolverine (Gulo gulo), are predators not to be underestimated. Similar in size and shape to a domestic cat, fishers are expert tree climbers and regularly prey on the well-fortified porcupine.

Despite their many unique abilities, fisher populations have declined across their range due to commercial fur trapping and habitat loss. Fishers today face additional and emerging threats. The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service withdrew a proposal to list fishers as threatened in California, Oregon, and Washington under the Endangered Species Act in 2016; a decision currently being litigated.

INR is working with collaborators and stakeholders to fill key information gaps and offer science-based recovery and conservation strategies. INR is working with partners on a wide-range of field-based research projects, population and habitat modeling efforts, and decision support tools. Read more about INR's fisher activities via the links to the right.

Hoopa Fisher Project

Female fisher emerging from a den cavity (Kerry Rennie / Hoopa Tribal Forestry)

The fisher, or ’ista:ngq’eh-k’itiqowh in the Hupa language, is culturally significant to many native communities of the Pacific Northwest, including the Na:tinaxwe or Hupa people. The Hupa name exemplifies the fisher’s agility, translated as ‘log-along-it scampers’. INR staff are collaborating with Hoopa Tribal Forestry biologists and foresters to develop a more complete understanding of fisher habitat selection patterns and recommendations for the protection, retention, and recruitment of fisher den sites.

The Hoopa Tribe's economy is almost entirely based on income generated from timber harvested on the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation. Fishers depends on forests with old growth characteristics. So it is critical to determine fisher habitat components that can be maintained or enhanced while implementing the Tribe’s forest management plan.

Klamath-Siskiyou Carnivore Project

Fisher photographed at sampling device (David Green / INR-OSU)

The Klamath-Siskiyou Carnivore Project offers a unique opportunity in the Klamath-Siskiyou Ecoregion to address the effects of ecological processes and anthropogenic activities on fishers (Pekania pennanti) and other meso-carnivores. We have surveyed meso-carnivores on approximately 510 km2 in the Klamath National Forest and neighboring private-timber lands using non-invasive methods since 2006.

In the summer of 2013, the Beaver Creek Fire burned approximately 30% of the study area. Thus, we have 7 years of data before the burn occurred, and 3 years following the burning event. This represents an unprecedented dataset to investigate the effects of wildfire and salvage practices on carnivore populations.

Medford-Klamath Falls BLM Fisher Project

Female fisher (Katie Moriarty / USFS PNW)


Southern Sierra Carnivore Monitoring

Two fishers, likely a mother and her kit, at a survey station (Jody Tucker/U.S. Forest Service Region 5).

Dead trees along a forest road on the Sequoia National Forest in May 2016 (U.S. Forest Service).

A diverse array of carnivores lives in the forests of the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. Biologists with the U.S. Forest Service Region 5 Carnivore Monitoring Program  conduct annual, systematic surveys to determine the presence of different carnivore species and the impacts of changes in environmental conditions. The program began in 2002 and uses remote cameras, sooted track plates, and genetics to survey over 12,240 km2, an area the size of Connecticut.

Drought and subsequent tree mortality are profoundly changing the forests of the southern and central Sierra Nevada. The U.S. Forest Service estimates there are 100 million dead trees, representing a major disturbance that will profoundly affect both human and biological communities. INR is collaborating with U.S. Forest Service colleagues to determine how these environmental changes are affecting occupancy patterns of fisher and other forest-dwelling species.