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


  1. I saw what looked to be a female Fisher this morning (5-1-17), at about 6:30 am, just north of Titusville in Mercer County. She was running along the Delaware canal bank down by the water edge on the opposite side from the tow path, (on the River road side of the canal). She stopped and took a good look at me and my dog, but ducked under a bush before I could get my cell phone out to take a picture. I had no idea what she was, but was all brown with long body and short legs, and a rather long bushy tail, resembling a weasel. Very exciting to see this rare animal up close!

  2. We saw what looked very much like a Fisher walking across a neighbour's back yard in Princeton on Friday May 19th. No photo unfortunately.

  3. AnonymousJune 08, 2017

    We saw what might be a Fisher on the D&R Canal between Washington Rd. and Harrison Street in Princeton today. Is that possible?

  4. AnonymousJune 17, 2017

    I think I saw what might have been a Fisher running across Union Valley Road in West Milford this morning (6/17/2017). It had very bushy dark reddish brown thick fur and was about 2.5 feet long. It ran with a motion similar to a ferret.

  5. AnonymousJuly 06, 2017

    We got one on the wildlife cam in North Bergen, NJ.

  6. Neighbor just saw what looked like a Fisher Cat here in Hopewell Twp (south of Pennington Circle). She has chickens coop in the yard now, and usually has deer, raccoon, hawks and other wildlife around.

  7. I saw one this morning when I was out walking my dog in Somerset. It ran across the street in front of me. I was really surprised. At night I sometimes here animals screaming and I usually think it's a vixen but maybe its one of these.

  8. I live in little egg harbor NJ. We think we have fisher cats in the woods which border our golf course. We hear them every night and the sound is identical to what we hear on line. Should we report this to anyone in the town or EPA?


    1. Yes, you should report the sightings. take a look at

  9. We have seen a fisher in our yard in Buena, NJ at 8 PM last month. We also saw one last year. My husband saw one at about 6:30 AM about two weeks ago behind our pool.

  10. We had a Fisher in our backyard yesterday in Newfield, NJ. His coat was reddish brown with a very bushy black tail.

  11. I live in Knowlton Township, NJ which is located in northern Warren County and bordered by the Delaware National Recreation Area. It is a rural community and heavily wooded. We have lots of wildlife including wild turkeys, owls, bears, deer, turkey vultures, snakes, coyotes, fox, and a wolf preserve, In May 2017, I observed a fisher cat at dusk along a brook. I was about a mile from my home and was driving. I was shocked, hit my brakes, and examined it well. It was very large and reminded me of a ferret in terms of its contours, but very large, and furry. I reported the incident to a wildlife professional, who informed me that I had likely seen a fisher cat. I immediately looked at photos online and discovered I had indeed seen one. I love wildlife and it truly made my day to see an animal that is rare to, but certainly making a comeback to NJ.

  12. My husband just saw a fisher about 15 minutes ago, 8:15 AM, running in the woods on our street here in Buena, NJ.