Wild Profile: Meet the fisher

Published: January 21, 2020

Fisher By moosehenderson/Shutterstock

The fisher may be the least-aptly named mammal in Canada. Fishers are not particularly fond of fishing. They won’t hesitate, however, to go after a porcupine—which, for obvious reasons, isn’t at the top of the menu for many meat-eating mammals. When a fisher—sturdy and fox-sized, but agile and swift—corners its quill-covered prey, it goes for the face, while simultaneously dodging the swinging, spiky tail. Once the porcupine is incapacitated, the fisher flips it over. No quills on the belly. No worries.

In the winter, a fisher can stash a porky carcass under the snow, and feed off it for days, potentially. But these predators also go for critters that hunker down in empty tree cavities. Like their equally-vicious but smaller (and, in our opinion, cuter) cousin, the marten, fishers are strong climbers. They can scamper up a dead tree, tear apart the nest hole, and kill the unfortunate flying squirrel or raccoon hiding inside. That’s cold.

You can find fishers in much of B.C. and in northern Alberta, plus east from Saskatchewan to Newfoundland.

Being such tough customers, fishers don’t have many mammal predators, but a high bobcat population can mean bad news: the two species share the same niche, and therefore, compete with each other for food.

Of course, the outlook wasn’t always so cheery for the weasels. Human influence—deforestation and the trapping trade—nearly drove fishers out of Canadian existence by the 1930s, in part because of the huge demand for their pelts after the war. Fishers were also in trouble in portions of the U.S.; thanks to reintroduction efforts, their low numbers are bouncing back.

It’s a win! Meet the trumpeter swan, another hunted species that came back from the brink.

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