Olympic Fisher Reintroduction Project: 2010 Progress Report
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Olympic Fisher Reintroduction Project: 2010 Progress Report

Category: Threatened and Endangered Species - Recovery Plans

Date Published: April 2011

Number of Pages: 24

Author(s): Jeffrey C. Lewis, Patti J. Happe, Kurt J. Jenkins and David J. Manson


The 2010 progress report is a summary of the reintroduction, monitoring, and research efforts undertaken during the third year of the Olympic fisher reintroduction project. Jeffrey C. Lewis of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Patti J. Happe of Olympic National Park, and Kurt J. Jenkins of U. S. Geological Survey are the principal investigators of the monitoring and research program associated with the reintroduction. David J. Manson of Olympic National Park is the lead biological technician.

Historically, the fisher (Martes pennanti) occurred throughout much of the coniferous forests of Washington. However, the fisher was extirpated from Washington within the last century, largely as a result of historical, unregulated trapping and loss of forests in older age-classes at low and mid-elevations. A status review completed in 1998 by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW; Lewis and Stinson 1998) documented these findings and prompted the listing of the fisher as a state endangered species by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in October of 1998. The fisher was also listed as a federal candidate species by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service after the proposed listing of its west coast population as endangered was deemed warranted but precluded by higher-priority listings (U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2004).

The listing of the fisher in Washington prompted considerable interest in restoring the species to its historical range within the state, as well as the development of a fisher recovery plan (Hayes and Lewis 2006). Recovery efforts throughout much of the fisher’s North American range have relied heavily on reintroductions and the fisher has proven to be one of the most successfully reintroduced carnivores (Berg 1982, Powell 1993, Breitenmoser et al. 2001, Lewis 2006). Due to the extirpation of fishers, the lack of nearby fisher populations to support recovery through recolonization, and the past success of reintroductions elsewhere, WDFW began planning a fisher reintroduction as a means to restore the species in Washington (Hayes and Lewis 2006).

A reintroduction feasibility study was initiated in 2002 by WDFW and Conservation Northwest, a non-profit conservation organization. The study concluded that fisher reintroductions to the Olympic Peninsula and to the Cascades of Washington were biologically feasible (Lewis and Hayes 2004), and that the most suitable location for a reintroduction was within Olympic National Park (ONP). Biologists with ONP had long been interested in the status of fishers in the Park. The preliminary results of the feasibility study prompted ONP to join the reintroduction partnership with WDFW and Conservation Northwest. Subsequently, WDFW and the National Park Service (NPS) developed a 3 reintroduction implementation plan (Lewis 2006), and an environmental assessment/reintroduction plan (National Park Service et al. 2007) pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act. With the approval of the environmental assessment and reintroduction plan by the NPS, the proposed reintroduction was initiated in the fall of 2007.

The intent of the Olympic fisher reintroduction project is to reestablish a self-sustaining population of fishers on the Olympic Peninsula. To achieve this goal, the Olympic fisher reintroduction project would release ~100 fishers on the Olympic Peninsula over three years. The reintroduction of fishers to the Olympic Peninsula is designed as an adaptive management project. The project incorporates research and monitoring of released fishers as a means to evaluate reintroduction success, investigate key biological and ecological traits of fishers, and inform future reintroduction, monitoring, and research efforts. WDFW and ONP are the co-leads for the reintroduction efforts, while WDFW, U. S. Geological Survey (USGS) and ONP are the leads for the research and monitoring program associated with the reintroduction. In this report, a preliminary summary is provided of the progress made during the third year (December 2009 – December 2010) of the reintroduction, monitoring, and research project. Summaries of previous year’s accomplishments are available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/fisher/.