Published: May 2017
Revised: September 2017
Author(s): Jeffrey C. Lewis
The fisher is a mid-sized member of the weasel family that once occurred in the coniferous forests of Washington. The species was extirpated from the state, mainly as a result of over-trapping, in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Extensive carnivore surveys conducted throughout much of the fisher's historical range in the 1990s failed to detect the species, and the fisher was listed as endangered in Washington in 1998. Reintroductions have been successful at reestablishing fisher populations throughout much of the southern portion of their North American range, and because of this success, fisher reintroductions to the Olympic Peninsula and the Cascade Range were a prominent components of the fisher recovery plan for Washington.
The first fisher reintroduction in Washington occurred from 2008 to 2010, and included the translocation of 90 fishers (50F, 40 M) from central British Columbia to Olympic National Park. While this reintroduction has not yet been declared a success, fishers are widely distributed on the Olympic Peninsula and numerous descendants from founders have been detected. The second reintroduction is currently underway in the southern portion of the Cascade Range in Washington. Sixty-nine fishers (38F, 31M) were translocated from central British Columbia from December 2015 to March 2017 and released in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and in Mount Rainier National Park. This reintroduction is expected to be completed by the fall of 2018.
Reintroductions have been implemented in Washington because there appears to be sufficient habitat to support reintroduced populations. Federal, state, tribal, and private lands provide habitat for fishers in Washington and these forests are managed under a variety of approaches that can support fisher populations. Management of forested habitats that support fishers is guided by a number of planning efforts that include the Northwest Forest Plan (federal lands), numerous habitat conservation plans (for non-federal lands), State Forest Practice rules (for private lands), and the Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances for fishers in Washington (for non-federal landowners). These management plans are expected to provide substantial support for fisher recovery in Washington.
Despite proactive efforts in Washington to reestablish fisher populations and to manage forested habitats to support fisher populations, the criteria to down-list the fisher from endangered to threatened status have not yet been met. Until those criteria are met, we recommend that the fisher remain listed as an endangered species in Washington state.
Draft documents are provided for informational purposes only. Drafts may contain factual inaccuracies and may not reflect current WDFW policy.