The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

March 7, 2013

The Fisher has moved into the Western New York area

By Douglas Domedion
Medina Journal-Register

Medina Journal-Register — A couple of years ago I wrote a column titled “A Unique Furbearer Moving This Way” about the fisher, an animal that is normally found in the Adirondack and Catskill areas. In that article it was also mentioned that they were starting to move into the Finger Lake region and maybe someday we would get established in our area. Well that must be happening because on the weekend of February 23 of this year two fishers were hit on the roads over by Oakfield. The weird thing was that one of them was hit on Fisher Road!

The “fisher cat,” as it is sometimes called, has been increasing it’s range and population. Trapping them has been allowed for many years in the Adirondacks and Catskills, where their numbers have been stable, but not in Western New York State.

This animal is a dark colored member of the weasel family that weights between five and fifteen pounds with the males being on the heavier side. They look similar to their smaller cousin, the marten (2 to 3 pounds), with their long bushy tail and short legs. They are about 3 to 4-foot long depending on the sex, the males being longer of course. The feet are wide and have semi-retractable claws and the hind feet can almost be rotated 180 degrees. This foot characteristic makes them very adaptable to climbing trees.

The fur varies from a dark brown to almost black with a “grizzly” appearance because of the various shades of color of the guard hairs around the neck and shoulders. The most recent value average of their pelt is around $156.

The “fisher cat”, as sometimes called by the local folks in the Adirondacks, prefers large wooded areas especially forests that are a mix of conifers and deciduous trees.

They eat a large variety of things from small animals to soft mast such as berries, beechnuts and acorns. They will also feed on carrion such as deer remains. This animal also has the distinction of being one of the only animals that will intentionally attack, kill and eat a porcupine.

How does he kill a “porkie” without getting those nasty quills stuck in him? Because he is so fast, like a Jack Russell Terrier, he can dart in and bite the head (which has no quills on it) and get out before the “porkie’s” tail can hit him. Eventually he will weaken enough that the fisher can roll him over and attack him through his unprotected belly. He will then consume everything except the hide with its quills. Of course he doesn’t get away completely without getting a few in his face but generally not bad enough to harm him.

Because they are so fast and agile in the trees sometimes even a squirrel is not safe from them.

The fisher lives a solitary lifestyle except for the breeding season. They are great travelers and will use a variety of places to den but generally use a tree cavity high in a hollow tree to raise their young.

The young, usually two or three are weaned in about 10 weeks and are raised completely by the mother. About the time fall arrives they are around four to five months old and they disperse from their mother.

This animal is a great roamer, often having a large circuit of many square miles that they rotate around in, so it is not really surprising that they have started to move into our area.

Many folks, even those in the Adirondacks, consider themselves very lucky to see a fisher cat but with this recent report of two in our area there is a chance you may see one in the future. With the more open country around here I think you chances will be better eventually in this area. Let’s just hope that no more get run over on the road.

The Great Outdoors is an interactive forum for nature lovers of all kinds. Local sportsmen and women can call to share their reports of trophies bagged, good hunting and fishing grounds, odd sightings and sportsman’s club activities. Photos are accepted. To get sportsman’s news and info into The Great Outdoors, call Doug Domedion at (585) 798-4020 or e-mail him at woodduck2020@yahoo.com.