Saturday, April 9, 2016

Fishers Return to New Jersey

Fisher - via wikipedia commons
Since the days of logging operations and unregulated trapping in New Jersey back in the early 1900s, you haven't heard or seen much of the fisher in our state. This species was once widely taken for its fur and was eliminated (extirpated) statewide.

But it seems to be making a comeback. Recently, two trappings of fishers by state officials in North Jersey, seems to indicate a return of fishers to the state.

Fishers are long, slender animals usually measuring between 20 and 25 inches with dark brown or black fur with white-tipped hair over most of their bodies.They prefer to live in forested areas, making dens in hollow trees and preying on small animals, including mice, squirrels, shrew and even porcupines.

Fishers are good swimmers and may be found by lakes, timbered swamps and bogs. They can have a home range of 1-3, but up to 15 square miles.

Sometimes confused with the wolverine (which does not exist in NJ), fishers are found only in North America. Also referred to as the fisher cat and Appalachian black cat, this animal may look like a cat or fox, but has a tough wolverine-like disposition.

Its name is a misnomer in that it is neither a feline nor does it catch fish. The fisher (Martes pennanti) is a member of the Mustelidae family, which includes otters, badgers, martens, ferrets, minks, and wolverines.

According to, this carnivore will eat anything it can catch — typically small- to medium-sized mammals and birds, carrion and some nuts and fruits also make up a portion of its diet. They can take down weak or injured deer, especially in times of heavy snow pack.

One distinction is that it is the  only predator of porcupines in the country. Those ominous prickly porcupine quills are effective against most predators except the fisher. It pursues a porcupine up a tree until it can go no further and falls. The fall stuns the porcupine, allowing the fisher to access the unprotected underside.

The fishers found in New Jersey probably came from some that were reintroduced in Northern Pennsylvania in the 1990s or from the Catskill Region of New York State, where they were introduced in the late 1970s to early 1980s,

There have only been three previous live discoveries of fishers in New Jersey in the last decade.

This year, one was captured in January in Mansfield Township and another fisher was caught and released in February in Washington Township, according to New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

Being that fishers have no natural enemies and few disease occurrences, without trapping by humans, vehicle collisions are the most likely reason for their death.

A fisher in West Virginia via Wikipedia Commons

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