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Olympic National Park Fisher Reintroduction

Olympic Fisher Reintroduction Updates
We have summarized some of our observations and some preliminary data to share with anyone who is interested in knowing more about the project. These updates will allow you to keep track of the released fishers and how the project of reestablishing fishers is progressing.

2011

 

2010

 

2009

 

2008

Note: These updates contain unpublished, provisional data subject to revision.

October 14, 2011
Jeff Lewis (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife), Patti Happe and Dave Manson (Olympic National Park), and Kurt Jenkins (US Geological Survey)

Monitoring radio-collared fishers: getting close to the end
It has been a while since our last update and there is quite a bit to report. We continue to track 4-6 of the 41 fishers that were released in early 2010 (F074, F078, M082, and F098 and sometimes we can locate F068 and M077; Figure 1). Beyond the normal difficulties of locating fishers over such a large, rugged area, we have documented antenna breakage on a number of the collars from recovered fishers, which made it very difficult to locate these individuals. Antenna breakage (Figure 2) substantially limits the transmission distance of radio-collar signals, making them considerably more difficult to locate, especially if a fisher should move away from an established home range.  We have been able to keep track of a number of fishers with weak signals (presumably with broken antennas) that have not moved away from an established home range, however, we have not been able to find a number of fishers whose collars should still be functioning based on the expected battery life. We assume that many of these fishers have a broken collar antenna, have moved to a new area, and are difficult to locate as a result.

Figure 1. Locations of the 6 fishers tracked during the summer months of 2011.

Figure 1. Locations of the 6 fishers tracked during the summer months of 2011.

[Click image for enlargement]

Figure 2. Antenna breakage for both collar configurations used during the project.

Figure 2. Antenna breakage for both collar configurations used during the project.

Figure 2. Antenna breakage for both collar configurations used during the project.  For collar configuration 1 (right), about 45% of the antenna is lost when broken off near the collar bracket. For the second collar configuration (left), about 60% of the antenna is lost where it breaks near the back of the fisher’s neck.

Reproduction
To date, we have been able to document only one reproductive female during 2011. We located fisher female F065 at a den in early April (see 27 April 2011 update) and we documented her moving 2 kits away from this den shortly thereafter (Figure 3). We had not found F065’s new den site before we detected a mortality signal from her collar. She was recovered on 19 May 2011 after being killed by a mountain lion (as determined by forensic DNA analysis). Unfortunately, we were unable to locate her new den site and rescue her 2 kits before she was killed. We continue to place camera stations in the commonly used areas of several females in an effort to determine if these females have young in tow (e.g., F068, F074, F078, F098). These efforts to monitor reproduction will continue through October.

Figure 3. Female F065 moving a kit to a new den sites on 16 April 2007.

Figure 3. Female F065 moving a kit to a new den sites on 16 April 2007.

After deep and persistent snows melted from much of the Olympic Mountains last summer we accessed several locations where we detected mortality signals from radio-collars. A mortality signal was detected for female F087 beginning in 8 June 2010 on a steep mountain side near Wynoochee Lake and the collar and skeletal remains of F087 were finally recovered on 31 August of 2011. The cause of her death was unknown, although both of her femurs were broken.

Mortality signals were also detected for males M100 (in May, 2011) and M101 (in June, 2011), which were rescued at 10 weeks of age, raised in captivity at Northwest Trek, and released in Olympic National Park in October of 2010. Unsafe hiking conditions and persistent snow packs prevented us from determining the status of these 2 males for some time after we detected their mortality signals, however, in both cases, we found only a broken collar, indicating that both males were not killed and may still be roaming about the Park. The timing of the mortality signals also indicated that these 2 males lived at least 7 (M100) and 8 (M101) months after being released from captivity. These outcomes indicate that the captive-rearing process employed at Northwest Trek was successful at raising fishers that can survive for significant periods of time in the wild and contribute to the recovery of the fisher population on the Olympic Peninsula.

Male M039 was released near the Staircase Ranger Station in the southeastern portion of Olympic National Park on 17 January of 2009. Unfortunately, we obtained only 5 locations for M039 over the next 5 months and could not find him after that time. Like a number of other fishers, we did not know if M039 had a faulty collar, if he had moved outside the study area, got hit on the road and his collar was damaged, or if he was still in the study area and we were just unable to locate him. On 7 June of 2011, a large male fisher with a radio-collar was found killed on Highway 101 near the junction of the Lower Queets Valley Road (northern boundary of the Quinault Indian Reservation). After further investigation, we determined that this fisher was M039, who had survived for 2 years since we had last located him in the summer of 2009 about 72 km (45 miles) from where he was killed. M039 was 1 year old and weighed 4.27 kg when he was released in January of 2009 and had developed into a large adult (>5 kg) at 3 years of age. Upon recovering him, his collar was no longer transmitting (at 2 years and 5 months after deployment) and the antenna on his collar had broken off.

Fisher Detections at Survey Stations
As the telemetry portion of the project winds down, we have begun planning for the next phase of study to assess the success of the fisher reintroduction over the longer term. The studies, based on using remote cameras and hair-snaring stations to determine fisher presence and collect genetic samples, requires information on the probability of detecting fishers using these devices where we know fishers occur. During the late summer and early fall, we placed 3 camera and hair snare stations within the home range of 5 radio-collared fishers to determine our success in ‘capturing’ pictures and hair samples. So far we have had fairly good success at detecting fishers, as we’ve detected them in 4 of the 5 home ranges where we’ve placed the detection stations (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Female fisher F078 entering a hair snare cubby at a detection station in her home range in the northeastern portion of Olympic National Forest on 5 September, 2011.

Figure 4. Female fisher F078 entering a hair snare cubby at a detection station in her home range in the northeastern portion of Olympic National Forest on 5 September, 2011.

Where do we go from here?
We are frequently asked: how many fishers do we have out there? Are you getting lots of reproduction? And, when will you know if it’s successful? While these are all good questions and they are questions we want answered, we are short on the information required to answer them to our satisfaction. Our monitoring project has provided valuable data on the post-release movements, survival, home range establishment and reproduction of reintroduced fishers, however, it has not indicated that a self-sustaining fisher population is assured on the Olympic Peninsula. Unfortunately, we have too little information to determine the exact status of the reintroduced population on the Olympic Peninsula. Consequently, we are seeking funding for, and gearing up to initiate, a long-term monitoring project that uses remote camera and hair snare stations to assess reproduction and occupancy of fishers across much of the Olympic Peninsula. This project will provide valuable data for determining the distribution, persistence, reproduction, and minimum size of the fisher population that occurs on the Olympic Peninsula. Clearly these data will allow us to answer the remaining important questions and help us determine what actions we might employ to further the restoration of a self-sustaining fisher population in this portion of the fisher’s historical range.

The fisher reintroduction is conducted through a partnership of agencies and organizations. Project management is jointly provided by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Olympic National Park. The U.S. Geological Survey, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Olympic National Park are leading a research program, including monitoring, to evaluate the success of the reintroduction. Other partners and cooperators are providing financial or logistical support for management and research tasks.

April 27, 2011
Jeff Lewis (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife), Patti Happe and Dave Manson (Olympic National Park), and Kurt Jenkins (US Geological Survey)

The Denning Time of Year
Now that it’s April, we are in the middle of the fisher breeding and kit-rearing season. Accordingly, we are focused currently on locating adult females and determining if they are raising kits. As we regularly locate fishers from the air, we are likely to see some females consistently using localized areas, which suggest that they are centering their activities around a den and kits. We can then locate a suspected den by radio-tracking from the ground and place remote cameras at the site to determine if the female is repeatedly visiting the site, which is a dead give-away that she has kits. This is exactly what happened last week, when Dave Manson and Kurt Jenkins placed 4 cameras around a suspected den site for female F065, who had been using a localized area on Olympic National Forest near the Dungeness River. Dave and Betsy Howell (USFS) revisited the site on 14 April and got pictures of F065 revisiting the site on the 12th and the 13th (Figure 1). We will continue to monitor this site using cameras with the hope of documenting kits emerging from the den in the months ahead. We are hopeful that she is the first of many denning females we find this year.

Figure 1. One of three photos taken of female fisher F065 at her den site on Olympic National Forest, 13 April 2011. In each photo, she uses this leaning snag to access her den snag, which can be seen in the left side of the photo.

Figure 1. One of three photos taken of female fisher F065 at her den site on Olympic National Forest, 13 April 2011. In each photo, she uses this leaning snag to access her den snag, which can be seen in the left side of the photo.
[Click image for enlargement]

Monitoring Released Fishers
We are now well into our 4th year of radio-tracking the released fishers, and currently we are actively tracking 16 fishers (9 females, 7 males) (Figure 2). All 16 were released in Year 3 of the project, when 41 fishers (18 females, 23 males) were released between December, 2009 and February, 2010). In addition to these 16 fishers, we have been tracking the 2 males (M100 and M101) that were raised in captivity. As anticipated, we have lost radio contact with the last of the fishers with working radio-collars from the second release year (late 2008 and early 2009). Consequently, there are a number of released fishers (with dead collars) and some offspring (no collars) that also inhabit the Olympic Peninsula.

Telemetry locations from 1 January to 14 April 2011 for 16 fishers (9F, 7M; excluding M061) we are actively monitoring on the Olympic Peninsula.

Figure 2. Telemetry locations from 1 January to 14 April 2011 for 16 fishers (9F, 7M; excluding M061) we are actively monitoring on the Olympic Peninsula. These 16 fishers are part of the 2010 release cohort. This map may not represent the current distribution of fishers on the Olympic Peninsula, because it does not depict locations of animals with failed or dropped collars or young fishers born in the area that are not radio-collared. Breeding season movements of several males (i.e., M056, M077, M083, M093) are illustrated by the lines connecting subsequent telemetry locations.

F085 was recovered in a small drainage on the north side of the Hoh River and appears to have been killed by a predator (i.e., apparent bite wound to the skull).

The mortality signal for female F048 was detected on 2 February. On 4 February we recovered F048’s collar and because we found no evidence of her body at all, we concluded that her collar came off and she was still alive at that time.

The signal from M059’s collar is located in the middle of the Dungeness River north of Sequim. Due to the river flow-levels and the depth to which the collar is buried in the gravel bed, we have not been able to recover it yet to determine if M059 died or merely lost his collar.

Male M100 was one of the two males that were raised in captivity in the summer of 2010 (see previous updates and Figure 2). A mortality signal was detected for M100 on 22 April and on 19 April for M061. It may be several months before we can hike into the sites where the collars of M100 and M061are located to determine if they have died or lost their collars. As access to the back country of the Park improves with the approaching summer months, we will be able visit mortality signal locations for M061 and M100 as well as female F080, whose mortality signal was detected in October, 2010.

Although we have detected a mortality signal for M100, this fisher and his brother (M101) have survived at least 6 months in the wild and demonstrate that fishers raised in captivity can survive for significant periods of time in the wild. It also indicates that these individuals could contribute (genetically and demographically) to the establishment of a self-sustaining population.

The fisher reintroduction is conducted through a partnership of agencies and organizations. Project management is jointly provided by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Olympic National Park. The U.S. Geological Survey, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Olympic National Park are leading a research program, including monitoring, to evaluate the success of the reintroduction. Other partners and cooperators are providing financial or logistical support for management and research tasks.

January 13, 2011
Patti Happe and Dave Manson (Olympic National Park), Jeff Lewis (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife) and Kurt Jenkins (US Geological Survey)

As we enter into the fourth year of the Olympic Fisher Reintroduction Project, we’ve scaled back our activities to focus on monitoring the survival, movements and landscape scale habitat selection patterns of translocated fishers and to plan for the next phase of the project – documenting fisher population persistence and expansion. There are no more fisher releases planned for the project; this is the first winter in 3 years that we will not be traveling up to Williams Lake to work with our Canadian colleagues and friends, which seems very strange indeed.

At present we are actively tracking 24 fishers: 3 (2F, 1M) of the fishers released in Year 2 19 (9F, 10M) of the fishers released in Year 3 (Figure 1), and the two rescued kits released in October 2011.

June 2010 through January 2011 locations of fishers we are actively monitoring as of 11 January 2011. Figure 1. June 2010 through January 2011 locations of fishers we are actively monitoring as of 11 January 2011. This map may not represent the current distribution of fishers on the Peninsula, because it does not depict locations of animals with failed or shed collars or young fishers born in the area that are not radio-collared.

As indicated above, we are also still tracking the 2 male kits (M100 and M101) that were raised at Northwest Trek. These kits were rescued from their mother’s (F088) den and placed at Northwest Trek in June of 2010 after she was killed by a bobcat. The kits were released along the Obstruction Point road on 15 October 2010, and as of 4 January they were still alive and moving around the northeastern region of the Park (Figure 2)

Movements of M100 and M101 since their release on 15 October 2010. Figure 2. Movements of M100 and M101 since their release on 15 October 2010.

Since September, we have been unable to locate any of the fishers released in Year 1, and have concluded that radio-collars on those fishers have come to the end of their battery life. With the loss of contact with those fishers comes an end to radio-tracking of male M011 by the wildlife staff from the Makah Tribe. M011 took up residence on the Makah reservation in June 2008 and over the years we have gathered over 80 locations for him – over half of which were obtained by the Makah Tribe’s wildlife staff. This is the largest data set we have for any animal, and through their help we were able to document two full years of movements, including excursions from his home range during the 2009 and 2010 breeding seasons (Figure 3) – for that we are extremely grateful. Our thanks are even more profound because we were only able to get these data after Rob McCoy (Lead Wildlife Biologist, Makah Tribal Wildlife) recaptured M011 for us when it was apparent that his first radio was failing, and replaced it with one that went for 1 1/2 more years.

Movement of M011, from his release (yellow star) in January 2008 until August 2010. Figure 3. Movement of M011, from his release (yellow star) in January 2008 until August 2010.

In addition to the Year 1 releases that we are no longer tracking, we have been unable to find 12 fishers from the year 2 and 3 releases for over 3 months; we still have hopes of relocating several of these animals. Our monitoring efforts over the winter continue to focus on monitoring the movements of known living fishers, and searching for the missing animals within the Olympic study area.

Since our last update two more fishers, F080 and M062, have been detected with their collars on mortality mode. F080’s location is in the park’s backcountry, and we will be unable to confirm if she is dead or shed her collar until July. We hope to investigate M062’s last location as soon as road access is possible on Olympic National Forest.

The fisher reintroduction is conducted through a partnership of agencies and organizations. Project management is jointly provided by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Olympic National Park. The U.S. Geological Survey, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Olympic National Park are leading a research program, including monitoring, to evaluate the success of the reintroduction.  Other partners and cooperators are providing financial or logistical support for management and research tasks.

November 2, 2010
Patti Happe and Dave Manson (Olympic National Park), Jeff Lewis (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife) and Kurt Jenkins (US Geological Survey)

Monitoring released fishers
At present we are actively tracking 29 fishers: 6 of the fishers released in Year 2 and 21 of the fishers released in Year 3 (Figure 1), and 2 male kits that were raised in captivity (see below). We are unable to locate any of the fishers released in Year 1, and presume that their radio collars have come to the end of their battery life. Many of the fishers released in Year 3 have settled into localized areas (Figure 1), however we have been unable to find 9 fishers for over 3 months (5 from the Year 2 release and 4 from Year 3). This past month we did an extensive search of southwest Washington, south of Grays Harbor to the Columbia River and east to I-5, and did not locate any of the missing 9. Our monitoring efforts over the winter will focus on monitoring the movements of known living fishers, and searching for the missing animals within the Olympic study area.

Figure 1. June through October locations of fishers we are actively monitoring as of 21 November 2010. This map is an underestimate of fisher locations, as several radio collars are no longer transmitting a signal, two fishers have shed collars, and there are young fishers born in the area are not radio-collared. Figure 1. June through October locations of fishers we are actively monitoring as of 21 November 2010. This map is an underestimate of fisher locations, as several radio collars are no longer transmitting a signal, two fishers have shed collars, and there are young fishers born in the area are not radio-collared.
Figure 2. Male M101 explores new terrain shortly after exiting his transport box.

Figure 2. Male M101 explores new terrain shortly after exiting his transport box.

Since our last update, we discovered three long missing fishers. M058 was found alive in the northern portion of the study area (Figure 1) and two fishers, F029 and M063, were found dead. F029 was a female released in 2008 that had been missing for over a year; she was found dead just north of Gray’s Harbor, a few miles east of Ocean Shores. Male fisher M063 was released in 2010 and had been missing for several months. Both animals were too decomposed for an investigation into cause of death.

Figure 3. Movements of M100 and M101 in the three weeks since their release, relative to other fishers that we know are in the area. In addition M009 and F007 were found in this area until their radio-collars failed. Figure 3. Movements of M100 and M101 in the three weeks since their release, relative to other fishers that we know are in the area. In addition M009 and F007 were found in this area until their radio-collars failed.

On October 15th, we released two new fishers in Olympic National Park: M100 and M101 (Figure 2). These two males, litter mates born in early April, were rescued from their den following the death of their mother (F088) in July. From June to October, these kits were raised at Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, where they received excellent care, learned to capture and kill live prey, and grew to over 5 kg each. These 2 males were larger than the juvenile fishers that we captured and translocated from British Columbia, which usually weighed <4 kg. We released both males in the northern part of the Park near Hurricane Ridge (Figure 3), in an area where we know there are other fishers nearby and where there appears to be an abundance of prey (mountain beavers and snowshoe hares). They have survived three weeks so far, and have weathered their first snowfall.

The fisher reintroduction is conducted through a partnership of agencies and organizations. Project management is jointly provided by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Olympic National Park. The U.S. Geological Survey, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Olympic National Park are leading a research program, including monitoring, to evaluate the success of the reintroduction. Other partners and cooperators are providing financial or logistical support for management and research tasks

September 13, 2010
Patti Happe and Dave Manson (Olympic National Park), Jeff Lewis (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife) and Kurt Jenkins (US Geological Survey)

Monitoring released fishers
At present we are actively tracking 31 fishers: 4 from the year 1, and 6 from the year 2, and 21 from year 3 (Figure 1). The fishers released in year 1 are getting very hard to find, and this is most likely due to the radio collars coming to the end of their battery life. Many of the fishers released in Year 3 have settled into predictable areas (Figure 1), however we have been unable to find 10 fishers for over 3 months. Our monitoring efforts this past month, and through the rest of the telemetry phase of project, will focus on monitoring the movements of fishers that are regularly found, and searching for the missing animals.

Figure 1. Movements of monitored fishers from December 2009 to August 2010. Figure 1. Movements of monitored fishers from December 2009 to August 2010.
Figure 2. F080 in the right foreground and her kit (in the left background on log) at a non-invasive camera and hair snare site.

Figure 2. F080 in the right foreground and her kit (in the left background on log) at a non-invasive camera and hair snare site.

Since our last update, we discovered five additional mortalities: F001, F043, F081, F094, and M070.  F094’s cause of death was predation, and we are awaiting necropsy results for the remaining animals.  However many were very decomposed by the time we were able to recover them, so a cause of death determination may not be possible.  

Non-invasive sampling and documenting reproduction:
As the batteries on the radio collars start to run out of power, we are in the process of designing the next phase of the monitoring program needed to assess the success of the Olympic Fisher Restoration Project.  At present, we are testing the effectiveness of cameras and hair snares in detecting fishers when we know they are present in an area.  In this test, we are deploying cameras and hair snares in the home ranges of fishers we are monitoring through telemetry.  An added bonus during this time of year is that the pilot study can also serve to help document fisher reproduction.  By July, female fishers with young of the year are increasingly mobile and locating dens sites is very difficult, especially in roadless areas.  During both 2008 and 2009 we deployed cameras within the ranges of suspected denning females in an attempt to confirm reproduction.  Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful in those previous attempts.  However, this strategy finally bore fruit last week, when one of 4 cameras deployed in the home range of F080- a female we suspected might be denning -got the following photo (Figure 2). 

F080 visited the camera on 5 occasions; however during only one event was a kit detected.  The cameras will remain deployed for two more weeks, in an attempt to get a more complete kit count and further evaluate the method.

F088’s kits (M100 and M101).  The two male kits rescued from F088’s den are thriving at Northwest Trek, and are now heavier than adult females (Figure 3). We have started switching them to live prey, however they have a while to go before the can fend for themselves in the wild.

Figure 3. Male fisher kits being raised at Northwest Trek Wildlife Park (Photo by Northwest Trek).

Figure 3. Male fisher kits being raised at Northwest Trek Wildlife Park (Photo by Northwest Trek).

Figure 4. Cole getting his picture taken at a camera and hair snare station. Figure 4. Cole getting his picture taken at a camera and hair snare station.

We want to thank our summer volunteer, Cole Talbot, who is heading back to college.  Cole lent a big hand with radio-tracking and maintaining camera and hair stations in the backcountry for the past 7 weeks.  He will be greatly missed.

The fisher reintroduction is conducted through a partnership of agencies and organizations. Project management is jointly provided by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Olympic National Park. The U.S. Geological Survey, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Olympic National Park are leading a research program, including monitoring, to evaluate the success of the reintroduction.  Other partners and cooperators are providing financial or logistical support for management and research tasks.

July 2, 2010
Patti Happe and Dave Manson (Olympic National Park), Jeff Lewis (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife) and Kurt Jenkins (US Geological Survey)

Monitoring released fishers
Throughout the spring we have been trying to keep track of our adult female fishers, to get an idea of which may be denning, while also keeping track of the dispersal movements and survival of the males and young females. The wet and cloudy spring has made this a challenge, but with the clearer weather we are starting to get more information on more of the long-missing fishers. At present we are tracking 55 fishers: 9 from the year 1 and 10 from the year 2 release (Figure 1) and 36 from year 3 (Figure 2). As we observed last year, several of the males left their traditional area during the breeding season, some of which we located in the core of the study area (i.e., National Forest and National Park) and much closer to females (e.g., Figure 1, M011), however due to the large number of animals we are tracking this year, we were not able to keep track of all the breeding season movements. In addition, several females (i.e., F018, F025) left their home ranges during the breeding season. Several of the fishers released in year-one have been hard to find lately (e.g., F003, F004, M010, M014), and we have confirmed that F004’s radio-collar is no longer functioning, which could indicate that we won’t be able to find other missing fishers released in year one.

Figure 1. December 2009 to June 2010 movements of fishers released in project years 1 and 2. Figure 1. December 2009 to June 2010 movements of fishers released in project years 1 and 2.
Figure 2. December 2009 to June 2010 movements of fishers released in project year 3 Figure 2. December 2009 to June 2010 movements of fishers released in project year 3

Since our last update, we discovered five additional mortalities – F067, M069, F088, M089 and F094. F067 drowned in the Elwha River, F088 appears to have been killed by a predator, and the cause of death of M069, M089 and F094 are still undetermined.

Den Monitoring Updates:
F004
In the last update we mentioned that we suspected denning activity for two females, F004 and F088. Over the months of May and June we confirmed that both were denning and we’ve been monitoring the dens with remote cameras. F004’s kits have started to come out of the den (see film clip) and we have confirmed that she has 4 kits. Unfortunately, her radio collar has failed, so once she moves her kits, we will be unable to track their fates.

Video of fisher kits emerging from den.

F004 kits have started coming out of the den.

 

Video Clip
Coming soon

Female F088
During the monitoring of F088’s den site (a snag) we detected a bobcat at the den on 21 May. We never observed F088 back at that den, but she was found consistently in the same area, so we searched for a new den site in the area and found her at a new den site on 4 June, again in a snag. We set up cameras at the new den site, and when we went back to check the camera on 8 June we found that she has visited the site on several days, but was last seen there on 5 June, and that a bobcat was photographed climbing the den snag on all succeeding days (Figure 3). We then searched for the female, and found her dead (cause of death indicates predation). Thanks to the quick help from biologist Scott Horton from Washington Department of Natural Resources, who dropped everything and met us at the den site, climbed the snag and rescued 2 kits (Figure 4); and to BC Ministry of Environment veterinarian Dr. Helen Schwantje who gave critical advice on caring for the kits; and to Pt. Angeles veterinarian Dr. Robert Mowbray who came out in the middle of the night to rehydrate 2 kits that had been without food for 3 days (Figure 5); and to wildlife rehabilitation experts and veterinarians from the Sierra Park Zoo (Eureka, CA), the Fresno Zoo, and Washington; we were able to safely secure and sustain her two kits. Fortunately, Northwest Trek Wildlife Park agreed to take them right away, and these 2 young males are currently under the excellent care of Northwest Trek Staff (Figure 6). It is our hope to raise them with minimal human contact and release them back into the study area in the fall, once they have learned to capture and kill prey, and can survive on their own.

Figure 3. Bobcat photographed climbing and investigating the second den snag used by fisher female F088. The 2 male fisher kits were removed from this den snag on 8 June 2010. Figure 3. Bobcat photographed climbing and investigating the second den snag used by fisher female F088. The 2 male fisher kits were removed from this den snag on 8 June 2010.

Figure 3. WDNR biologist Scott Horton climbed the den snag used by fisher female F088 and retrieved 2 male fisher kits, which were approximately 10 weeks old. Figure 4. Veterinarian Robert Mowbray (left) and Kurt Jenkins inspect and treat one of the 2 recovered kits. Figure 5. Northwest Trek Curator, Rich Sartor, holding a fiesty young fisher on its first day at Northwest Trek.
Figure 3. WDNR biologist Scott Horton climbed the den snag used by fisher female F088 and retrieved 2 male fisher kits, which were approximately 10 weeks old. Figure 4. Veterinarian Robert Mowbray (left) and Kurt Jenkins inspect and treat one of the 2 recovered kits. Figure 5. Northwest Trek Curator, Rich Sartor, holding a fiesty young fisher on its first day at Northwest Trek.

The rescue and care of these kits was only possible due to the quick offers of assistance from a whole bunch of people. We thank you all.

The fisher reintroduction is conducted through a partnership of agencies and organizations. Project management is jointly provided by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Olympic National Park. The U.S. Geological Survey, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Olympic National Park are leading a research program, including monitoring, to evaluate the success of the reintroduction. Other partners and cooperators are providing financial or logistical support for management and research tasks.

April 27, 2010
Patti Happe and Dave Manson (Olympic National Park), Jeff Lewis (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife) and Kurt Jenkins (US Geological Survey)

Monitoring released fishers
For the past month and a half we have been focusing our efforts on monitoring the movements and survival of the newly released and established fishers on the Olympic Peninsula. Winter weather, as usual, has not always been conducive to flying, and with trying to keep track of so many animals, our radio telemetry flights have been challenging. At present we are monitoring 54 fishers through radio telemetry: 9 from the year 1 release, 10 from year 2, and 35 from year 3. We are using Argos satellite collars to monitor the movements of 5 males released in year 3. As was observed following the first two releases, fishers released this last winter have dispersed widely across the Olympic Peninsula (Figure 1). New to the project this year, the Argos collars allow us to track animals off the Peninsula more easily, and one of the males (M096) has moved south of the study area (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Movements of fishers released in the winter of 2009/2010 through 19 April 2010. Figure 1. Movements of fishers released in the winter of 2009/2010 through 19 April 2010.

Since our last update, we discovered two additional mortalities - F050 from Year 2, and an unidentified female from Year 3. We were unable to definitively identify this second female because she was hit by a vehicle on Highway 112, and the collision rendered both the radio collar and microchip unreadable. We suspect the identity of this fisher, but we are awaiting the results of confirmatory DNA analysis. On 12 April, we also discovered a third fisher, M035, that we thought had died based on mortality signal characteristics. But upon retrieval, we discovered that a portion of his radio collar had worn through and the collar fell off. Finally, a long missing fisher, F027, was detected on the 19 April 2010 flight; her last confirmed location was in July 2009.

Reproduction
Early this month we began searching for denning females to document reproduction. Using radio-telemetry from the ground, we walk-in to locate females suspected of denning. If we locate a female in a suitable denning structure (a snag or tree with cavities), we deploy remotely triggered cameras to see if she is reusing the site on multiple days. To date we have confirmed denning activity for 2 females, F004, who was released in 2008, and F088, who was just released on February 20, 2010 (Figure 2). This year we have been able to confirm denning over one month earlier than we were able to in 2009. We are currently investigating several other females, while also monitoring the den trees of F004 and F088 for evidence of kits.

Figure 2. F088 looking at a remote camera used to confirm denning behavior. Figure 2. F088 looking at a remote camera used to confirm denning behavior.

Finally, we would like to shout out our deepest thanks to student intern Josh Larson (Figure 3), who recently returned to Brigham Young University to resume his wildlife curriculum. His assistance was invaluable this winter, as was his sense of humor!

Figure 3. Josh Larson, ground tracking on his last day on the project. Figure 3. Josh Larson, ground tracking on his last day on the project.

The fisher reintroduction is conducted through a partnership of agencies and organizations. Project management is jointly provided by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Olympic National Park. The U.S. Geological Survey, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Olympic National Park are leading a research program, including monitoring, to evaluate the success of the reintroduction. Other partners and cooperators are providing financial or logistical support for management and research tasks.

March 1, 2010
Patti Happe and Dave Manson (Olympic National Park), Jeff Lewis (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife) and Kurt Jenkins (US Geological Survey)

Last of the Releases!!
On 20 February 2010 we completed the fisher translocation phase of the project with the release of 13 fishers into the park: 5 at Boulder trailhead in the Elwha and 8 in Bunch Field in the Quinault. These animals joined the 12 fishers released on 21 Jan 2010 and the 16 released on 24 December 2009, to bring us up to a total of 41 fishers released this year.

In total over the 3 years of releases, project partners returned 90 fishers (50 females and 40 males) to the Park. Our heartfelt thanks and deepest appreciation goes out to the 13 trappers who safely captured and provided us with fishers, and to Marg and Don Evans who so diligently cared for the animals for three winters, and also for their wonderful hospitality during all of our trips up to BC to process and transport the fishers. Finally, we want to thank Helen Schwantje, Wildlife Veterinarian for the British Columbia Ministry of Environment, for all her help with the fisher examinations and processing.

Fisher Figure 1. Wildlife vet Helen Schwantje and project biologists working with a large male fisher, 18 Feb 2010.
Figure 2. Captive facility manager and fisher caretaker, Marg Evans, holding one of her charges with a new Argos satellite collar. Fisher facility manager Marg Evans with fisher.

The day of the final release was the best weather we have ever had – a very fitting end to this phase of the project (Figures 3-5). At both release sites 50 to 75 people shared in the experience; participants ranged from agency representatives to the fortunate Park visitor who accidentally stumbled onto the release event. It is fitting that the last release site for the project, the North Fork of the Quinault, is the last place on the Peninsula where we have a good record of a healthy fisher population: 20 fishers were trapped there in the winter of 1921.

Fisher Figure 3. Acting Deputy Superintendent of Olympic National Park, Brian Winter, welcoming the participants at the Elwha release. Photo by Janis Burger, NPS
Fisher facility manager Marg Evans with fisher. Figure 4. Jeff Heinlen (WDFW) and his daughters releasing a fisher in the Elwha.
Photo by Coke Smith
Fisher release Figure 5. A newly-minted Washington fisher gets some air as it launches into the Elwha.
Photo by Coke Smith

Monitoring released fishers
All of our efforts will now be focused on monitoring the released fishers and assessing the success of the restoration project. At present, we are focused on monitoring fisher movements and survival, and are keeping track of 62 fishers: 9 from Year 1 releases, 11 from the year 2 releases, and all 41 from Year 3. We are tracking 57 fishers through radio telemetry and 5 through the use of Argos satellite collars.

As we have observed in the past two years, some fishers are dispersing widely following their release (Figure 6).

Fisher Figure 6. Movements of the 16 fishers released in the Maiden, Elwha, and Sol Duc drainages on 24 December 2009.

Since our last update, we have discovered another mortality: M045 from Year 2. He is located too deep in the park for us to recover him at present. Necropsy results confirmed that F013, who was found in December 2009 along Highway 101 near the Elwha, was killed after colliding with a vehicle. We are awaiting necropsy results for several additional fishers who died in 2009.

The fisher reintroduction is conducted through a partnership of agencies and organizations. Project management is jointly provided by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Olympic National Park. The U.S. Geological Survey, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Olympic National Park are leading a research program, including monitoring, to evaluate the success of the reintroduction. Other partners and cooperators are providing financial or logistical support for management and research tasks.

January 6, 2010
Jeff Lewis (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife), Patti Happe and Dave Manson (Olympic National Park), and Kurt Jenkins (US Geological Survey)

The Start of the Year 3 Releases
On 20 December 2009, we traveled to British Columbia to prepare 16 fishers (10 males and 6 females) for the trip back to Washington and release in Olympic National Park. Each fisher was examined by Helen Schwantje, Wildlife Veterinarian for the British Columbia Ministry of Environment, photographed, measured, and fitted with a radio-collar (Figure 1).

Fisher Figure 1. Male fisher (5.65kg) immobilized prior to being examined and fitted with a radio-collar, 21 December, 2009.

We drove them south from central British Columbia to Port Angeles, Washington on 23 December, and released them in the Park on the 24th.We released seven (4 males and 3 females) in both the Elwha and Sol Duc Valleys, and two males in the Maiden Creek drainage off Deer Park Road. Despite busy holiday schedules, a large group of project cooperators (Figure 2) and wildlife enthusiasts watched and participated in the releases (Figure 3). From all accounts, it was a great way to spend part of Christmas Eve day.

Participants in fisher release Figure 2. Dave Werntz (Conservation Northwest) and Betsy Howell (US Forest Service) transport a fisher from the truck to the release site. (Photo: Janis Burger, NPS)
Figure 3. Jeff Lewis (WDFW) assists a young assistant (Orion Griffin) release a fisher in the Elwha (photo by Coke Smith). Fisher release on Christmas Day

Trapping in British Columbia
The last year of fisher trapping in BC for the project officially started on 1 November 2009. As of 4 January 2010, we have captured a total of 23 fishers; as mentioned above, 16 were released on 24 December and 7 are currently being held in captivity in BC until they are transported for release. We will make our next trip to British Columbia to retrieve fishers when we have about 15 in captivity. We are over halfway through the trapping season and our goal is capture as many as 22 more before the end of the trapping season on 15 February, 2010.

Fisher Figure 4. Fisher F074 in her housing unit in British Columbia.

Monitoring released fishers
With the latest release of fishers on 24 December 2009, we are now monitoring 37 fishers with radio-collars: 9 from the year 1 releases, 12 from the year 2 releases and 16 so far in year 3. Since our last update, we have recovered two more dead fishers; F024, who was found in December 09 in the Park in the Sol Duc Valley, and F013, who was found along Highway 101 near the Elwha River. Both have been sent in for necropsy to attempt to determine cause of death. In addition, we also continue to monitor for 6 fishers whose fates are unknown.

The fisher reintroduction is conducted through a partnership of agencies and organizations. Project management is jointly provided by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Olympic National Park. The U.S. Geological Survey, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Olympic National Park are leading a research program, including monitoring, to evaluate the success of the reintroduction. Other partners and cooperators are providing financial or logistical support for management and research tasks.

December 2, 2009
Patti Happe (Olympic National Park), Jeff Lewis (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife), Dave Manson (Olympic National Park), and Kurt Jenkins (US Geological Survey)

Results from camera stations
As we reported in the September 2009 update, at the end of the summer we focused our efforts on trying to confirm reproduction by radio-collared females in some of the more remote areas of the Olympic Peninsula. Betsy Howell from Olympic National Forest and volunteers from Conservation Northwest assisted with that effort by deploying 5 camera stations in an area used by 2 female fishers that we suspected had denned in 2009. In late September, those efforts paid off! In addition to getting thousands of pictures of at least two different radio collared fishers, they also obtained numerous pictures of an uncollared fisher, shown below (Figure 1). Hair samples were also collected at the site, and have been submitted for DNA analysis in an attempt to identify both the fisher and its parents.

Fisher Figure 1. Uncollared fisher detected in the Buckhorn Wilderness in the northeastern portion of Olympic National Forest, 24 September 2009.

Monitoring released fishers
As we prepare for the third and final year of fisher releases for the project, we are also tracking the movements of 23 fishers: 10 from the Year 1 releases and 13 from Year 2. Of the 49 fishers released in the first two years of the project, 14 are known to have died, 4 are presumed dead (animal has not moved, but because it is in a remote area of the park we are unable to recover the carcass) and 2 are known to have failed radio-transmitters. The fates of 6 fishers are unknown.

Fisher
Figure 2. Movements and distribution of monitored fishers (June 2008-November 2009)

Trapping in British Columbia
The project’s last year of fisher trapping in BC officially started on 1 November 2009. There are 23 trappers signed up to trap for the project, and our first fisher was caught on 4 November 2009. At present there are 5 fishers in captivity, including #060 pictured below. A trip to BC to bring captured fishers back to Washington will take place as soon as there are about 15 animals in captivity.

Fisher Fisher Figure 3. Fisher #060 at the captive facility in British Columbia.

The fisher reintroduction is conducted through a partnership of agencies and organizations. Project management is jointly provided by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Olympic National Park. The U.S. Geological Survey, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Olympic National Park are leading a research program, including monitoring, to evaluate the success of the reintroduction. Other partners and cooperators are providing financial or logistical support for management and research tasks.

October 18, 2009
Jeff Lewis (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife), Patti Happe (Olympic National Park), Dave Manson (Olympic National Park), and Kurt Jenkins (US Geological Survey)

This update contains unpublished, provisional data subject to revision.

We remained busy throughout late summer trying to confirm reproduction by radio-collared females in some of the more remote areas of the Olympic Peninsula. With the help of a number of volunteers from Conservation Northwest and Betsy Howell from Olympic National Forest, baited camera stations have been placed in the Buckhorn Wilderness Area of Olympic National Forest to see if fisher female F001 has kits with her. The effort is just recently underway, but volunteers have already gotten photos of a radio-collared female fisher (presumably F001; Figure 1), but not kits, just yet. The effort to find kits with F001 will continue into October.

Fisher Figure 1. Radio-collared female fisher at a baited camera station in the Buckhorn Wilderness Area in Olympic National Forest. Photo taken on 12 September 2009.

Similarly, we have been trying to confirm the presence of kits with another adult female, fisher F017, in the area between the Clearwater and Queets Rivers. Earlier efforts to locate F017 in a den were unsuccessful, so we switched to placing baited camera stations in an area where she spends much of her time. Despite 2 months of running camera stations, and many great pictures of F017 (Figure 2), we have not gotten any pictures of her with kits.

Fisher Figure 2. Radio-collared female F017 photographed at a remote camera station on 18 August 2009. She was repeatedly photographed at 2 of 3 remote camera stations placed in the Queets River drainage during August and September of 2009, however no kits were photographed at these stations.

From September 8-12, project biologists attended the 5th International Martes Symposium, held at the University of Washington. It was a great opportunity to share information about the Olympic reintroduction project and to learn of recent research and management of Martes species from around the globe. A highlight of the Symposium was a field trip to the Olympic Fisher Reintroduction Project study area on Saturday the 12th. The bus ride and the weather were great for the 40-50 attendees (Figure 3), who got to see some of the best fisher habitat on the Olympic Peninsula and some of the largest remaining areas of temperate old growth forest in North America, in Olympic National Park. Project biologists led the field trip with stops at Hurricane Ridge (to see the visitor center and fisher home ranges), Crescent Lake (to hike up the Barnes Creek trail), and the Elwha Valley. At the Elwha Valley, the University of Washington’s Center for Conservation Biology presented a demonstration of the use of scat-sniffing dogs for research. From all accounts, the field trip was a smashing success.

Martes Symposium Attendees
Figure 3. Martes Symposium attendees that went on the field trip to the Olympic Fisher Reintroduction Project study area on the Olympic Peninsula. Field trippers are seen here loafing after a grueling 0.5 mile hike up the Barnes Creek trail near Crescent Lake.

We have also benefitted from the assistance of the Adam Dillon and Aaron Solem and their Wildlands Studies Class, who have trekked into the outback of Olympic National Park to retrieve two female fishers that died during the summer (F041 in the upper Grand Valley and F040 in the Tom Creek tributary of the Hoh River). The class was able to recover F041 in the Grand Valley, but had less luck recovering the collar of F040, which was located in an inaccessible slope in a very steep canyon. We have also recovered female F028 near Sappho, WA where she was apparently hit by a vehicle in late August.

We are currently tracking 24 fishers, and recently found male M020 after having lost contact with him for several months. Most collared fishers appear to be consistently using localized areas now in late summer, however there are 7 animals that we have not located in several months. We will continue to try to find these as we keep track of the other 24.

Upcoming Events

We are currently gearing up for our last year of releases. We are targeting a capture and release of 45 fishers this year and are working with our contractors in BC to prepare for the fisher trapping season that starts on 15 November. We are looking into new radio-collar configurations from Holohil and have purchased 5 satellite collars (120 grams) that we plan to put on the first 5 big males we catch this year. We hope these collars provide a steady stream of data on these males during the first several months following their release in Olympic National Park. We will soon be working with Sirtrack to test these collars on the Olympic Peninsula, so that we can use the test data to inform how best to program the collars that will be deployed on males.

The fisher reintroduction is conducted through a partnership of agencies and organizations. Project management is jointly provided by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Olympic National Park. The U.S. Geological Survey, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Olympic National Park are leading a research program, including monitoring, to evaluate the success of the reintroduction. Other partners and cooperators are providing financial or logistical support for management and research tasks.


July 21, 2009
Patti Happe (Olympic National Park), Jeff Lewis (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife), Dave Manson (Olympic National Park), and Kurt Jenkins (US Geological Survey)

More fisher kits found!

Since our last update we have found den sites and documented successful reproduction for two more female fishers (F022 and F033). We found F022’s den site on 21 May, and obtained confirmation of successful reproduction through pictures of kits on 16 June. F022’s den was on Forest Service land just northeast of the Park. In the images we can see her moving kits around for several days (Figure 1), but in no frame do we see more than one kit. Consequently, we are unsure of her litter size; she may have moved one kit several times or she may have a litter of 2 or more kits.

Figure 1.
F022 moving a kit to the base of the den tree.

F022 moving a kit to the base of the den tree.

We actually found two den sites for F033, both of which are in the Park near Lake Crescent. The first den site was found on 18 June, and the second on 1 July. At the later site we obtained over 1000 images of F033 and her two kits over a 5-day period. You can see video clips of F033 and her two kits (see link to video, and see other videos on the photo and video page of the fisher web page). As you can see, the kits are quite mobile at this time of year!

Both F022 and F033 were released on 21 December 2008, as part of the second year’s releases. Both were pregnant prior to their release, and were able to successfully locate den sites prior to giving birth to kits this spring. We collected scats at each of the den sites for DNA analysis so we can genetically identify each fisher kit.

There are several other females that may have given birth to kits this year. However, it is getting harder to locate den sites. Our efforts to document fisher reproduction will switch to trying to document female fishers traveling with kits by placing remote camera stations in a female’s home range throughout the rest of the summer.

Monitoring released fishers

We are now monitoring the movements of 34 fishers: 13 from the Year 1 release and 21 from Year 2. During the last 6 weeks, we scaled back aerial surveys in favor of spending more effort on the ground, locating den sites and documenting reproduction. Consequently, we have not located several wide-ranging fishers for a while. As the denning season winds down, we plan to refocus our efforts on documenting when and where fishers have established home ranges.

Figure 2.
Movements and distribution of all monitored fishers (June 2008-July 2009)

Movements and distribution of all monitored fishers (June 2008-July 2009)

Since our last update (8 June 2009), we’ve had 2 more mortalities among the 31 recently released fishers: F054 was recovered in the Elwha in early June and F041’s radio collar was discovered on mortality mode in late June. F041 is located deep in the Park, and is presumed dead until we can hike to the area and investigate the site.

The fisher reintroduction is conducted through a partnership of agencies and organizations. Project management is jointly provided by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Olympic National Park. The U.S. Geological Survey, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Olympic National Park are leading a research program, including monitoring, to evaluate the success of the reintroduction. Other partners and cooperators are providing financial or logistical support for management and research tasks.


June 8, 2009
Patti Happe (Olympic National Park), Jeff Lewis (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife), Dave Manson (Olympic National Park), and Kurt Jenkins (US Geological Survey)

First fisher kits found!

As we stated in the 17 April update, we planned to switch the emphasis of the monitoring efforts over the past month to focusing on the movements of adult females, and determining if and where they are denning. Those efforts paid off this month, when members of the fisher study field crew, Dave Manson and Josh Francis, found what we strongly suspected to be the den site of F007, a fisher that was released in January 2008. We suspected that she was denning in early April because her movements were concentrated in a small portion of her home range, however it took many trips into thePark’s backcountry to finally find the den site. The hike in to her location took about 2 hours, so she had plenty of time to leave a possible den site before Dave and Josh could get there, but persistence paid off and they finally found her at home. The morning of 12 May they found F007 in a cedar snag riddles with pileated woodpecker holes. They then placed out several remote cameras, hoping to document reuse of the snag by F007, which would indicate that she was using it as a den site. The cameras were deployed for 2 weeks, and when we recovered the data cards from the cameras we had photos of her going up the snag two different times, which was very exciting. However, we hit pay dirt on May 26th when we retrieved the data cards from the cameras and found pictures of F007 moving 4 kits to another den. You can see pictures of the den site and a video of F007 moving her kits at the photo and video gallery page at this web site. You can also see a video clip of F007 being released in the Elwha valley in January 2008 (video clip #7).

Several other studies have documented a female fisher moving their kits to a new den site. It is thought that females may relocate the kits to lower den sites as the kits grow so they don’t fall from a great height as they start to walk and climb. What is a bit unusual is a litter size of 4; the mean litter size for fishers in the wild is around 2.2. We won’t know if all 4 will survive until dispersal age in the fall, but a litter this big is an indication that F007 has been successful in finding and procuring prey. The birth of these 4 kits is the result of F007 mating in the Spring of 2008 on the Olympic Peninsula with one of the first 6 reintroduced males. With the collection of hair and scat from F007’s kits (left at den sites), we may be able to determine the identity of her mate.

As the denning season progresses, we are trying to locate the den sites of several other females that we suspect may have kits, while their movements are still restricted around the den site.

Monitoring released fishers
As was the case last year, the fishers are distributed throughout a large portion of the Olympic Peninsula (Figure 1). To try to keep track of them we are attempting to conduct 2 telemetry flights each week, one out of Olympia to cover the southern Olympics and one out of Port Angeles to monitor animals in the North.

Figure 1.
Movements and distribution of fishers on the Olympic Peninsula as of 15 April 2009.Fishers released in Year 2 have larger markers and dashed lines.

Movements and distribution of all monitored fishers (June 2008-June 2009)

Now that the breeding season is over, many of our wide roaming fishers have started moving around a lot less, and several of the roamers from the Year 1 release have returned to their former home ranges. Of particular note are M011 and M014, who have returned to their home ranges near Neah Bay and Ocean Shores, respectively (Figure 2).

Figure 2.
Movements and distribution of fishers on the Olympic Peninsula as of 15 April 2009.Fishers released in Year 2 have larger markers and dashed lines.

Movements of fishers release in Year 1 of the project, June 2008-June 2009.

We’ve had 2 more mortalities among the 31 recently released fishers: M031 was hit by a vehicle on Highway 101 on 4 May 2009 and the remains of M037 were recovered in the Quinault Valley on 6 May 2009. We are currently tracking 37 fishers; 14 of 18 released in Year 1, and 23 of 31 released in Year 2.

The fisher reintroduction is conducted through a partnership of agencies and organizations. Project management is jointly provided by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Olympic National Park. The U.S. Geological Survey, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Olympic National Park are leading a research program, including monitoring, to evaluate the success of the reintroduction. Other partners and cooperators are providing financial or logistical support for management and research tasks.


Update April 17, 2009
Patti Happe (Olympic National Park), Jeff Lewis (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife), Dave Manson (Olympic National Park), and Kurt Jenkins (US Geological Survey)

Monitoring released fishers
As we are entering denning and breeding season, documenting the movements of the released fishers has become critical, but also very challenging. Fishers that were showing a tendency to stay in one area are now becoming less predictable in their locations. The males from the first year’s release, for example, are now either far from their home range, or missing. Of particular interest are males M011 and M014, who last year established home ranges in Neah Bay and Ocean Shores, respectively; far from any known female fishers. M011 was last seen near Neah B ay on 27 February 2009, but was found near the Elwha River on 26 March 2009 and in the Hoh Valley on 15 April 2009. M014 was last seen near Ocean Shores on 24 February, but was most recently located between the Hoh and Bogachiel R ivers on 3 April 2009 (Figure 1). These long-distance movements are expected of males as they seek females during the breeding season (March-April-May).

Figure 1.
Movements and distribution of fishers on the Olympic Peninsula as of 15 April 2009.Fishers released in Year 2 have larger markers and dashed lines.

Movements and distribution of fishers on the Olympic Peninsula as of 15 April 2009. Fishers released in Year 2 have larger markers and dashed lines.

At present we are monitoring the movements of 38 fishers: 13 from Year 1 and 25 from Year 2. Careful readers may notice that there is one more animal from the Year 1 release than we reported in the last update. That increase is because we just found M002, the male that had been missing since his release on January 2008. We have been unable to track M002 because of interference with his radio-collar from a NOAA weather station. On 14 April we got a report of a fisher in a tree in west Port Angeles. Much to our surprise, it turned out to be M002 (Figure 2). It was still very difficult to get a clear signal from his radio-collar (even when we were close [<0.2 miles] to him), but it was great to find out that he has survived the last 14 months since we released him.

Figure 2.
Male fisher M002, 14 April 2009.

Male fisher M002, 14 April 2009.

Three more of the 31 recently released fishers have died since our last update: F044 was recovered south of the Queets River on 30 March 2009, F026 was recovered in the upper Hoh on 9 April 2009, and F021 was recovered in the Sol Duc drainage on 16 April 2009. Volunteers Chiggers Stokes and Beth Rossow made an attempt to recover F040 last week (this was the 3rd try) but were unable to locate her. We’ll do a 4th and final try after the snow melts.

Upcoming
During fisher denning season our efforts are focused on the movements of adult females, and determining if and where they are denning. If we suspect a female may be denning, we plan to set up a camera on the suspected den tree to document denning.

The fisher reintroduction is conducted through a partnership of agencies and organizations. Project management is jointly provided by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Olympic National Park. The U.S. Geological Survey, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Olympic National Park are leading a research program, including monitoring, to evaluate the success of the reintroduction. Other partners and cooperators are providing financial or logistical support for management and research tasks.


Update March 2, 2009
Patti Happe (Olympic National Park), Jeff Lewis (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife), Dave Manson (Olympic National Park), and Kurt Jenkins (US Geological Survey)

February Fisher Release
Fisher trapping season in British Columbia closed on 15 February, 2009. Consequently, on 21 February we made the third and final trip for the year up to BC to get the last batch of fishers. Due to unfavorable weather conditions, fisher trapping slowed down considerably in late January and early February 2009, and the last release of the year consisted of just 2 females, both of which were released in the Hoh Valley on 23 February, 2009. This concludes year 2 of a planned 3 years of releases for the project.

To date, we have released 49 fishers into the park: 16 males and 33 females. Due to the active participation of 12 different trappers throughout the region during the past 2 years, captured fishers came from a wide area and variety of habitats (Figure 1). We are hoping for a banner trapping year next year to bring us close to our goal of releasing 100 animals over the planned 3 years of reintroductions.

Figure 1.
Fisher capture and release sites in year 1 and 2 of the project.

Fisher capture and release sites in year 1 and 2 of the project.

Monitoring released fishers
At present we are monitoring the movements of 40 fishers: 12 from Year 1 (Figure 2) and 28 from Year 2 (Figure 3). Of the 18 fishers released in year 1, 4 fishers (F008, F012, F015, M005) are either known or suspected to have died, and we are unable to monitor two fishers (M002 and M009) due to either radio interference or failure. Three of the 31 recently released fishers are either known or suspected to have died: F036 was recovered in the Elwha River on 26 January, F049 was recovered on highway 101 on 3 February, and F040’s radio is on mortality mode and has not moved since 22 January, 2009. The remaining animals are distributed throughout the Olympic Peninsula (Figures 2 and 3)

Figure 2.
Movements from June 2008 to March 2009 for fishers released in Year 1.

Movements from June 2008 to March 2009 for fishers released in Year 1.

Figure 3.
Movements from December 2008 to March 2009 for fishers released in year 2 of the project.Releases in year 2 occurred in December 2008, January 2009, and February 2009.

Movements from December 2008 to March 2009 for fishers released in year 2 of the project. Releases in year 2 occurred in December 2008, January 2009, and February 2009.

Upcoming
Now that the release-season has ended, our efforts will focus on monitoring the survival, movements and home range establishment patterns of the radio-collared fishers. Special emphasis will be placed on monitoring reproductive-age females, and determining if and where they are denning. We are also keeping an eye on M011 and M014, to see if they leave their home ranges (near Neah Bay and Ocean Shores, respectively) during the breeding season in search of females.

The fisher reintroduction is conducted through a partnership of agencies and organizations. Project management is jointly provided by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Olympic National Park. The U.S. Geological Survey, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Olympic National Park are leading a research program, including monitoring, to evaluate the success of the reintroduction. Other partners and cooperators are providing financial or logistical support for management and research tasks.


Update January 29, 2009
Jeff Lewis (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife), Patti Happe and Dave Manson (Olympic National Park), and Kurt Jenkins (US Geological Survey)

The continued success of BC trappers through late December 2008 and early January of 2009 recently provided us with a second batch of fishers for release this winter (Figure 1). Dave Manson (Olympic National Park), Harriet Allen (WDFW) and Jeff Lewis (WDFW) made the trip to Williams Lake, British Columbia from 13-16 January to prepare fishers for reintroduction and to transport them to Washington (Figures 2 and 3). We want to acknowledge the invaluable assistance of Dr. Helen Schwantje (BC Ministry of Environment veterinarian) and Larry Davis (Simon Fraser University) in the preparation, care, and handling of fishers in BC.

Figure 1. Figure 2.
Trapper transfers a newly-captured fisher Preparing a fisher for reintroduction

A British Columbia trapper transfers a newly-captured fisher from his covered trap to a wooden transport box.

Dr. Helen Schwantje and Dave Manson preparing a fisher for reintroduction.

Figure 3.
Immobilized female (left) and male (right) fisher

An immobilized female (left) and male (right) fisher were placed together to illustrate the size difference between the sexes (i.e., sexual dimorphism).

On 17 January 2009 we released 15 fishers (9 females and 6 males) into Olympic National Park. Five fishers (3 females and 2 males) were released in each of three drainages: the Skokomish, Hoh and Queets. Our goal was to release fishers in three new areas and to release sub-adult and adult males in areas where there were resident females (those released in early 2008 who had settled into an area) but no resident males (i.e., Skokomish and Queets drainages). Hopefully, the addition of these new fishers will provide increased mating opportunities for resident and newly-released females.

The release in the Hoh and Queets provided an opportunity for agencies, tribes, and interested citizens on the west side of the Olympic Peninsula to witness and participate in a fisher release. The release in the Skokomish drainage provided an opportunity for representatives from the lead agencies, partner organizations, and local tribes to meet, participate in the release, and enjoy a beautiful day in the field. Several media representatives were also at the Skokomish release site, and the release was an opportunity for the lead agencies to highlight the cooperative research and monitoring efforts associated with the reintroduction.

After a long ride from British Columbia, each of the 15 radio-collared fishers departed for the forested cover of the park, with delay (Figure 4). With 18 fishers released in January and March of 2008 and 14 released on 21 December 2008, the release of these 15 fishers on 17 January 2009 brings the total number of fishers released in Olympic National Park to 47.

Figure 4.
Radio-collared fisher making a quick get away at the Hoh release site

A radio-collared fisher making a quick get away at the Hoh release site, 17 January, 2009.

Monitoring released fishers

Our aerial telemetry flights have been successful at locating 13 of the 14 fishers released on 21 December 2008 (Figure 5). Several of these fishers have already made substantial movements; with male M020 traveling 25 km from the Elwha drainage to the Sol Duc drainage, and female F027 traveling from the Sol Duc drainage to the Elwha drainage (Figure 5).

Figure 5.
Locations and movements of 13 of 14 fisher released

Locations and movements of 13 of 14 fisher released on 21 December, 2008 in the Elwha and Sol Duc drainages of Olympic National Park.

Upcoming

We hope to complete this season’s release activities by releasing as many as 11 additional fishers by the end of February, 2009. There are already 2 fishers waiting up in BC for this winter’s last round of releases.

The fisher reintroduction is conducted through a partnership of agencies and organizations. Project management is jointly provided by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Olympic National Park. The U.S. Geological Survey, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Olympic National Park are leading a research program, including monitoring, to evaluate the success of the reintroduction. Other partners and cooperators are providing financial or logistical support for management and research tasks.


Update January 7, 2009
Patti Happe and Dave Manson (Olympic National Park), Jeff Lewis (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife), and Kurt Jenkins (US Geological Survey)

The fisher trapping season in British Columbia got very busy in mid December, and on December 17 we headed up to Williams Lake to process and transport the first batch of fishers caught thus far during the 2008/2009 trapping season. After a very warm and pleasant fall, winter weather came in with a vengeance at just this time, so the trip was very interesting, to say the least. We drove up in a snowstorm, worked in BC at temperatures less than -200C, and drove back in a snowstorm!

During the processing, all fishers were examined by a Dr. Helen Schwantje (BC Ministry of Environment veterinarian), measured, photographed, equipped with a radio-collar; tissue samples were also taken to obtain DNA and to test for disease exposures (Figures 1 and 2).

Figure 1.
Male Fisher
Fisher teeth

Figure 1. Photographs taken of a male fisher to document the condition of his eyes, face, mouth, and teeth.

We deployed digital cameras at baited stations this summer in an effort to document reproduction. Although we did not obtain any pictures of fisher kits, we were successful in luring and photographing adult female fishers at both camera stations (Figure 2).

Figure 2.
Fisher examination

Patti Happe (NPS) and Dan Lirette (BC Ministry of Environment) lend a hand, while Jeff Lewis (WDFW) photographs the unique ventral pelage markings of this male fisher.

SOL DUC RELEASE VIDEO

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in Windows Media format.

The winter weather continued during the day scheduled for the release, but thanks to the heroic efforts by Les Young of Olympic National Park’s road crew, who plowed the roads right in from of the vehicles carrying the fishers, we were able to safely release 14 fishers in the Park on December 21, 2008. Five were released in the Elwha Valley and nine in the Sol Duc drainage (Figure 3); see a video clip of a fisher released in the Sol Duc. Since the release event, weather conditions have permitted us to conduct two incomplete telemetry flights; 12 of the 14 newly released fishers were relocated during those two flights and those 12 were alive and moving. As soon as the weather conditions improve again, we will continue to track all 14 as well as the 13 fishers that we are still radio-tracking from the first year’s releases.

Figure 3.
Fisher Sol Duc release

NPS Ranger Stu Curtin releases male M031 in the Sol Duc. During this year’s release, each animal was released through a track–plate box so that we could gather baseline data on each animal’s footprints.

Meanwhile, up in British Columbia the busy trapping season continues, and there are 13 in captivity awaiting the next round of releases for this year!

The fisher reintroduction is conducted through a partnership of agencies and organizations. Project management is jointly provided by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Olympic National Park. The U.S. Geological Survey, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Olympic National Park are leading a research program, including monitoring, to evaluate the success of the reintroduction. Other partners and cooperators are providing financial or logistical support for management and research tasks.


Update December 1, 2008
Patti Happe and Dave Manson (Olympic National Park), Jeff Lewis (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife), and Kurt Jenkins (US Geological Survey)

Throughout November we continued to monitor locations of fishers that had functional radio-transmitters (i.e., 13 fishers).  There are no new mortalities or radio failures to report for this month, and all 13 fishers have consistently remained in the area in which they were found last month. (see Figure 1). 

Figure 1.

Meanwhile, we continue to prepare for the next round of fisher releases.  Fisher trapping for the project began in British Columbia on November 1.  Although not all trap lines are currently active, we do have 19 trappers signed up to participate in the program.  At present we have 8 animals awaiting transport in BC (Figure 2).  We hope to be able to release around 40 new fishers in 2009, in two or three release events.  When we have 12 -15 animals in captivity we will head up to get the first batch!

Figure 2.
Female 2009F019 in her run in the captive animal facility in British Columbia.

The fisher reintroduction is conducted through a partnership of agencies and organizations. Project management is jointly provided by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Olympic National Park. The U.S. Geological Survey, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Olympic National Park are leading a research program, including monitoring, to evaluate the success of the reintroduction.  Other partners and cooperators are providing financial or logistical support for management and research tasks.


Update November 6, 2008
Patti Happe and Dave Manson (Olympic National Park), Jeff Lewis (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife), and Kurt Jenkins (US Geological Survey)

Throughout October we continued to monitor locations of fishers that had functional radio-transmitters (i.e., 15 fishers).  All 15 fishers have consistently used a localized area during September and October, and some have used the same area since May (see Figure 1)!  We greatly appreciate the assistance of the Makah Tribe’s wildlife staff for their efforts in radio-tracking M011, who is staying put on the Makah Reservation in the northwestern corner of the Olympic Peninsula.

Figure 1.

M005 was found dead this month along Highway 101 (see location of orange dot).  It appears that he was killed by a vehicle collision, but we will send off his carcass for necropsy to confirm the cause of death.

The implant radio-transmitter of M009 appears to have failed prematurely, and M011’s implant radio-transmitter was in the process of failing.  Thanks to the quick and skilled assistance from the Makah tribal biologist, Rob McCoy, we were able to recapture M011, re-equip him with a functional radio-transmitter collar (Figure 2), and release him back on the Makah Reservation. 

Figure 2.
Makah Tribe Wildlife Biologist Rob McCoy holding male fisher M011.  M011 was captured, anesthetized, equipped with a radio-collar, and released on the Makah Reservation on 31 October 2008.

Meanwhile, all preparations are complete for the next round of fisher trapping in British Columbia.  The trapping season opened on November 1, and right now there are 19 trappers participating in the program.  Our first fisher of the 2008-2009 British Columbia trapping season was captured on 3 November 2008: a 5.2 lb female.  We hope to capture and release approximately 40 more fishers this winter.

The fisher reintroduction is conducted through a partnership of agencies and organizations. Project management is jointly provided by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Olympic National Park. The U.S. Geological Survey, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Olympic National Park are leading a research program, including monitoring, to evaluate the success of the reintroduction.  Other partners and cooperators are providing financial or logistical support for management and research tasks.



Update October 7, 2008
Patti Happe and Dave Manson (Olympic National Park), Jeff Lewis (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife), and Kurt Jenkins (US Geological Survey)

Throughout September we continued to monitor locations of 15 fishers that have functional radio-transmitters. All 15 fishers are still alive and several have begun to localize movements within a consistent area during the summer (see 1 June to 30 September locations in Figure 1).

Figure 1.

We deployed digital cameras at baited stations this summer in an effort to document reproduction. Although we did not obtain any pictures of fisher kits, we were successful in luring and photographing adult female fishers at both camera stations (Figure 2).

Figure 2.
Adult female fisher photographed at a remote camera station on the Olympic Peninsula on 26 September 2008. The site is baited with a chicken and a scent lure.

The cameras take pictures in very quick succession, such that picture frames can be made into a video. Attached is a short film made of sequential images taken at one camera station. During low light and at nighttime, the camera shoots black and white photos using an infra-red flash. During brighter-light conditions it can take color pictures.

CAMERA STATION VIDEO

We offer streaming video files
in Windows Media format.

The fisher reintroduction is conducted through a partnership of agencies and organizations. Project management is jointly provided by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Olympic National Park. The U.S. Geological Survey, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Olympic National Park are leading a research program, including monitoring, to evaluate the success of the reintroduction. Other partners and cooperators are providing financial or logistical support for management and research tasks.



Update August 28, 2008
Jeff Lewis (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife), Patti Happe and Dave Manson (Olympic National Park), and Kurt Jenkins (U.S. Geological Survey)

This update contains unpublished, provisional data subject to revision.

Jeff Lewis (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife), Patti Happe and Dave Manson (Olympic National Park) and Kurt Jenkins (US Geological Survey)

Throughout July and August we continued to track 15 fishers that have functional radio-transmitters. Distribution patterns are similar to what was observed in June (Figure 1).

Figure 1.

During summer, several males began to concentrate use in localized areas (Figure 2). This behavior is consistent with animals that may be settling into home ranges after the breeding season, which for fishers, typically ends in May.

Figure 2.

Several females (F001, F012, F016, and F017) continue to make long distance movements between subsequent telemetry locations (Figure 3). Tracking the movements of both males and females continues to be one of our main objectives in an effort to determine if and when individuals establish home ranges.

Figure 3.

Limited access to the interior of Olympic National Park has made it challenging to determine if any of the females has produced kits. Consequently, in July we deployed two digital cameras at baited stations within an area commonly used by female F003. We hope that F003, and any kits she may have, are lured to these camera stations and photographed, providing evidence of successful reproduction by a reintroduced female.

Finally, we have begun getting ready for the next round of fisher releases, scheduled for this coming winter. We hope to release about 40 fishers in the winter of 2008/2009. As with the first round, all released fishers will be equipped with radio transmitters.

The fisher reintroduction is conducted through a partnership of agencies and organizations. Project management is jointly provided by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Olympic National Park. The U.S. Geological Survey, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Olympic National Park are leading a research program, including monitoring, to evaluate the success of the reintroduction. Other partners and cooperators are providing financial or logistical support for management and research tasks.

During summer, several males began to concentrate use in localized areas (Figure 2). This behavior is consistent with animals that may be settling into home ranges after the breeding season, which for fishers, typically ends in May.


Update June 18, 2008
Jeff Lewis (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife), Patti Happe and Dave Manson (Olympic National Park), and Kurt Jenkins (U.S. Geological Survey)

Through June we have continued to track the survival and movements of 15 of the 18 released fishers. Of the remaining 3, one has died, one is presumed dead (see the May update) and one cannot be found due to radio interference (20 February Update). This month we located several fishers that we had not been able to find for several weeks. For example, male M014 was last located on 4 March 2008, two days after his release. Eighty days later on 23 May, we located him south of the lower Quinault River (Figure 1), 76km from his previous location. Male M005 has also traveled extensively (see map below and May 19, 2008 update) and recently moved from Lake Cushman in the southeastern Olympic Peninsula to the Lake Pleasant area in the northwestern Peninsula; traveling a distance of at least 99km over 17 days.


In mid June, female F004 spent several weeks using patches of forest habitat on the outskirts of Port Angeles, to the north of the Park; we were able to track her to several rest sites, including one in a cedar snag (Figure 2). She was last located in the outskirts of Port Angeles on 11 June, 2008, but five days later on 16 June she was found 46km south, in the upper Queets drainage (Figure 1).

Figure 2.
Female fisher F004 using a cedar snag in a remnant forest stand near Port Angeles, 10 June 2008.

We continue to track three females (F003, F007 and F018) to determine if they have had kits. While walking in to locate female F007, we intercepted her tracks in the snow and found where she had killed and consumed most of a mountain beaver (Figure 3). Fisher predation on mountain beavers was expected, however this is the first evidence that we have collected to confirm fisher predation and consumption of mountain beavers.

Figure 3.
Figure 3. Remains of a mountain beaver found at a fisher foraging/feeding site in Olympic National Park, May 2008.

The fisher reintroduction is conducted through a partnership of agencies and organizations. Project management is jointly provided by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Olympic National Park. The U.S. Geological Survey, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Olympic National Park are leading research and monitoring to evaluate the success of the reintroduction. Other partners and cooperators are providing a variety of financial or logistical contributions in support of fisher management, research and monitoring.


Update May 19, 2008
From Patti Happe and Dave Manson (National Park Service), Jeff Lewis (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife) and Kurt Jenkins (U.S. Geological Survey)

We have continued to monitor the movements and survival of the reintroduced fishers through the end of April and the beginning of May. Although most fishers continue to use areas in the northern portion of the park, the wide-ranging movements of some individuals (see figure), make for challenging radio-tracking and long flights!  Of note are the long-distance movements of male M005, who was found one week in the upper Hoh River drainage, and the following week in the Skokomish River drainage. Meanwhile, F017, who spent several weeks on the southeastern corner of the Olympics, was found most recently in the upper Hoh. Male M011, who we were not able to find for 3 weeks, was eventually discovered to be west of Olympic National Park, near Dickey Lake. Last week he was found back in the park, but this time in the coastal strip near Lake Ozette.

In the April 11th update, we reported the death of a female (F008). The preliminary forensics investigation indicated that she was killed by a bobcat (unpublished data, G. Wengert, University of California, Davis). This determination was confirmed through DNA analysis of swabs taken at the wound sites, material recovered under her claws, and fur adjacent to the wounds. We received a mortality signal on another fisher, F015, two weeks ago. The location of her signal is deep in the park, far from any roads or trails. It is unlikely that we will be able to retrieve her carcass and conduct an autopsy.


Update April 11, 2008
From Patti Happe and Dave Manson (National Park Service), Jeff Lewis (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife), and Kurt Jenkins (U.S. Geological Survey)

In the last weeks of March, the combination of weather conditions and wide-ranging fisher movements complicated efforts to consistently locate the reintroduced fishers. With better weather in the first two weeks of April, we were able to get many flights in, and relocated 14 of the 18 fishers at least once. Also we were able to relocate several long-missing fishers (see figures).

We received a mortality signal on F008 on Tuesday, 8 April and recovered her carcass later that day. Damage to the carcass and evidence at the scene indicate predation as a possible cause of death. We are sending her carcass to a wildlife forensic lab for a definitive determination and a full necropsy. Although loss of an animal is unfortunate, this is not an unexpected occurrence.

Because we are currently in the middle of the fisher birthing season (late March to early April), we have focused efforts these past few weeks on repeatedly locating females. Some have been relocated up to 5 times in the past 2 weeks. Documenting reproduction is an important indication of reintroduction success, and repeated locations of a female in a relatively small area (e.g., a portion of a drainage) can indicate that she is concentrating her movements around a den site and young (known as kits). Movement patterns of female F016 have been particularly interesting and challenging to monitor. She was released in the Elwha Watershed on 2 March and was relocated on 6 March near Lake Mills, but then disappeared. After extensive searching, we found her on 3 April in the South Fork of the Hoh, 37 km away from her 6 March location at Lake Mills.

In the upcoming weeks, we will continue focusing our aerial tracking on females, and simultaneously conduct ground-telemetry monitoring on foot to locate females at den sites.

Other females also have moved remarkably long distances (Figure 3). After extensive searching, we located female F004 on 2 April in the upper Hoh River drainage, approximately 22 km from her last known location in the Little River drainage. Within 24 hours of locating her in the upper Hoh drainage, we located her in the lower portion of Cat Creek in the Elwha drainage, 14 km from her location on the previous day. On 18 March F015 and F017 were located in the headwaters of the Dosewallips River. They both moved over 30 km from their release site in the Elwha drainage on 2 March. F017 has subsequently been relocated in the Skokomish drainage, 25 km from her last known location and almost 50 km from her release site.

Because females mate within 10 days after giving birth and non-pregnant females mate at the same time of year (approximately late March and April), we are also currently monitoring the proximity of males to females as an indication of mating opportunities and potential reproduction in 2009. We also will continue to search for the 4 fishers that were not located in the past 2 weeks.


Update March 6, 2008
From Patti Happe (National Park Service), Jeff Lewis (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife), and Kurt Jenkins (U.S. Geological Survey)

On March 2nd we released 7 more fishers into the Elwha Valley, bringing the total now roaming the Olympic Peninsula to 18 (12 females and 6 males). Thanks so much to all who helped with the capture, animal care, and release phases of the project this year, both in Washington and British Columbia!


Susan Piper (from Olympic National Forest) and her son Ronnen release F018 at Whiskey Bend (photo Coke Smith).

The tracking crew was able to fly and relocate fishers on Tuesday, March 4th. We were able to get locations on all of the newly released fishers. We found that they all were alive and traveling substantial distances in just 2 days.

Movements of newly released fishers, between 2-4 March 2008.

We also relocated 8 of the 11 previously released fishers. Included in that group was M010, who we have not located on the past two flights. All are alive and moving throughout the landscape. They continue to spend most of their time in Olympic National Park and to a lesser extent in adjacent Olympic National Forest lands.

Movements of fishers release on January 27, 2008. Sample period is 27 January through 4 March 2008.

We are done releasing fishers for this winter, but have plans for further releases in the winters of 2009 and 2010. Our efforts now will concentrate on monitoring fisher movements and survival. In addition, several of the females are pregnant and possibly will be denning soon. We will also focus ground activities on locating female den sites and determining their reproductive success.


Update February 27, 2008
From Patti Happe (National Park Service), Jeff Lewis (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife), and Kurt Jenkins (U.S. Geological Survey)

The tracking crew was able to fly and relocate fishers on Tuesday, February 26th. This makes three consecutive weeks where we have been able to fly and gather data on fisher movements and survival. As happened last week, we were able to relocate 9 of the 11 released fishers. They continue to spend most of their time in Olympic National Park and to a lesser extent in adjacent Olympic National Forest lands. The average distance moved in the intervening 7 days between flights was 4 km (range 0.6 to 9.8 km). Some animals also have been tracked from the ground (M005, F004, and F007), and we are getting a more in-depth understanding of their movement patterns.

Once again, the two fishers that we did not find were M002 and M010. We have been able to relocate M010 in the past, and we suspect we are either missing him, or he has moved somewhere. We plan to focus on him during our next flight.

At present we have six fishers in captivity in British Columbia waiting for release on the Olympic Peninsula. The second, and final, release of the year will happen the first week of March, with additional releases planned in 2009 and 2010.


Update February 20, 2008
From Patti Happe (National Park Service), Jeff Lewis (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife), and Kurt Jenkins (U.S. Geological Survey)

We were able to take advantage of the lingering good weather that occurred here over Presidents Day Weekend, and conduct another fisher radio telemetry tracking flight on February 19th. (Our most recent prior flight was on February 13th). We relocated 9 of the 11 released fishers, and as reported last week, all are alive and still moving to varying degrees. The average distance moved in the intervening 6 days between flights was 6.7 km (range 1.4 to 18 km).

The 2 fishers that we did not find were M002 and M010. Male M002 is the one we did not find last flight; his frequency still has a lot of radio interference - we discovered that it comes from a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather radio, so our ability to radio track this individual will be limited.


Update February 14, 2008
From Patti Happe (National Park Service), Jeff Lewis (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife), and Kurt Jenkins (U.S. Geological Survey)

Seventeen days after the fishers were released into Olympic National Park, the series of winter storms hitting the Olympic Peninsula finally relented enough on February 13th to allow us to conduct an aerial telemetry flight over the entire release area and check up on the status of the released fishers. Prior to that date, we have been tracking via ground, and made two truncated aerial surveys. However those efforts allowed us to only cover a small portion of the study area, and we had intermittently heard from only 6 of the 11 released animals.

On Wednesday February 13th, we relocated 10 of the 11 released fishers. We are obtaining records of movement as they explore the landscape. Several have crossed the Elwha River, and many have moved between drainages, successfully crossing high ridgelines in the middle of the winter. One male (M02) was not located on the 13th. The frequency of his collar coincides with considerable static on the receiver, which may make finding him more difficult.

The average distance moved by the fishers in the 17 days between their release points and where we found them on the 13th is 9.5 km (5.9 miles), but movements varied from 3.2 to 21.2 km. Two have stayed in the general area of their release. The fishers that have moved have moved in all directions, and the two that moved the farthest, essentially switched places (to each other’s release sites) and then moved a bit more. All animals have stayed within federal lands, with 9 of 10 remaining entirely within the park, and one moving between the park and adjacent Olympic National Forest lands. They are using all elevations within the park and forest, ranging from 1400 to 4500 ft. Most of the fishers are using areas at or above the snow level in the area (which right now is between 1000 and 1500 ft).

Fisher Distance moved between 01/272008 release site and 02/13.2008 location (km) mi direction elev. (ft) notes
2008F001 11.8 7.3 wnw 2600 crossed several ridgelines
2008M002          
2008F003 21.2 13.2 w 3600 crossed Elwha river and ridgelines
2008F004 5.0 3.1 ne 1400 crossed Elwha River; have 4 points: know first moved south 3 km, then north; total distance between sequential (class 2 and 3) points=12 km
2008M005 7.1 4.4 ssw 2250 stayed in same general area of release side (no known river or ridge crossings, but did cross Boulder and Cat creeks)
2008F006 8.0 5.0 nw 2750 crossed ridgeline
2008F007 6.8 4.2 ene 4000 crossed ridgeline
2008M009 10.0 6.2 ene 4500 crossed ridgeline; moved to near #10, then moved to another drainage
2008M010 4.2 2.6 wsw 3800 stayed in same general area of release side
2008M011 3.2 2.0 n 4500 stayed in same general area of release side
2008F012 18.0 11.2 se 3500 crossed Elwha river, moved a bunch
Mean 9.5 5.9   3290  
Mean F 11.8 7.3   2975  
Mean M 6.1 3.8   3763  

 

Fisher Distance moved between 01/272008 release site and 02/13.2008 location (km) mi direction elev. (ft) notes
2008F001 11.8 7.3 wnw 2600 crossed several ridgelines
2008M002          
2008F003 21.2 13.2 w 3600 crossed Elwha river and ridgelines
2008F004 5.0 3.1 ne 1400 crossed Elwha River; have 4 points: know first moved south 3 km, then north; total distance between sequential (class 2 and 3) points=12 km
2008M005 7.1 4.4 ssw 2250 stayed in same general area of release side (no known river or ridge crossings, but did cross Boulder and Cat creeks)
2008F006 8.0 5.0 nw 2750 crossed ridgeline
2008F007 6.8 4.2 ene 4000 crossed ridgeline
2008M009 10.0 6.2 ene 4500 crossed ridgeline; moved to near #10, then moved to another drainage
2008M010 4.2 2.6 wsw 3800 stayed in same general area of release side
2008M011 3.2 2.0 n 4500 stayed in same general area of release side
2008F012 18.0 11.2 se 3500 crossed Elwha river, moved a bunch
Mean 9.5 5.9   3290  
Mean F 11.8 7.3   2975  
Mean M 6.1 3.8   3763