Author(s): Patricia J. Happe, National Park Service; Kurt J. Jenkins, U.S. Geological Survey; Michael K. Schwartz, U.S. Forest Service; Jeffrey C. Lewis, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife; Keith B. Aubry, U.S. Forest Service
With the translocation and release of 90 fishers [Pekania pennanti (formerly Martes pennanti)] from British Columbia to Olympic National Park during 2008-2010, the National Park Service and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife accomplished the first phase of fisher restoration in Washington State. Beginning in 2013, we initiated a new research project to determine the current status of fishers on Washington's Olympic Peninsula 3 - 5 years after the releases and evaluate the short-term success of the restoration program. Objectives of the study are to determine the current distribution of fishers and proportion of the recovery area that is currently occupied by fishers, determine several genetic characteristics of the reintroduced population, and determine reproductive success of the founding animals through genetic studies.
During 2013, we assembled a broad coalition of cooperating agencies and Tribes to assist in conducting fisher surveys, and initiated field studies of fisher detections and genetic (hair) sampling. The sampling frame consists of 157 24-square-kilometer hexagons distributed across all major land ownerships on the Olympic Peninsula. During 2013, Federal, State, and Tribal biologists established three baited motion-sensing camera stations, paired with hair snaring devices, in 52 (33 percent) of the hexagons within the targeted study area. Each paired camera/hair station was left in place for approximately 6 weeks, with three checks on 2-week intervals. We documented fisher presence in 9 of the 52 hexagons (17 percent), and identified 10 different fishers through a combination of microsatellite DNA analyses and camera detections. These 10 individuals, including 4 of the original founding population of 90, and 5 new recruits to the population (1 individual was not identified) provide indicators of both long-term survival of translocated fishers and successful reproduction of fishers in the Olympic Recovery Area. We documented fisher occurrence on Federal, State, private, and Tribal lands. Additionally, we identified more than 40 other species of wildlife at the baited camera stations. We also obtained eight incidental fisher observations on the Olympic Peninsula through photographs, carcass retrieval, or the incidental capture (and safe release) of fishers in box traps set for bobcats.
During 2014, we plan to sample 45 - 50 additional hexagons in Olympic National Park and National Forest and lend support to partners working on non-federal lands. We anticipate continued broad participation of collaborators in the year ahead, and hope to add new partners allowing us to expand sampling outside the initial study area. In 2014, we will expand to include an interpretive component of the study and begin estimating occupancy patterns and genetic indicators of fisher population status.