Fisher

Close up of a fisher in the forest

Close up of a fisher in a forest.

John Jacobson

Latin name
Pekania pennanti
Category
Mammals
Federal status
Candidate
State status
Endangered

Historical over-trapping, incidental mortality, and habitat loss and fragmentation caused the elimination of fishers in Washington by the mid-1900s. A reintroduction project to recover the species on the Olympic Peninsula was completed in 2010, and reintroductions have been conducted since 2015.

Fishers commonly prey upon small and mid-sized mammals, such as snowshoe hares, squirrels, mice, and voles. They also feed on ungulate carrion, fruit, insects, and birds. Fishers are known for their ability to prey upon porcupines.

Trapping, vehicle collisions, and predation by bobcats, coyotes, and cougars are common sources of mortality.

Females give birth when they are two years of age or older, and litter sizes range from one to four kits. Fishers use uncharacteristically large home ranges for an animal of their size (average sizes are more than 19 square miles in northern portions of its range), with male home ranges typically being twice as large as those of females. Large trees, large snags, and large logs with cavities are important habitat features and are commonly used as rest sites and den sites.

Population size and trends are unknown, but are currently under investigation.

Description and Range

Physical description

Fishers are a mid-sized carnivore (4.4 to 13 pounds) in the weasel family that use forested habitats. It is related to the mink, otter, and marten. It has a long bushy tail, short rounded ears, short legs, and a low to the ground appearance.

Geographic range
Map with shaded range of the Fisher between the west and Canada
Geographic footprint of the Fisher

Fishers occur only in the boreal and temperate forests of North America. They once occurred throughout the forested areas of western, northeastern, and southeastern Washington, but were eliminated from the state by the mid-1900s mainly as a result of over-trapping.

Ninety fishers were reintroduced to the Olympic Peninsula from 2008 to 2010 as the first step in fisher recovery in Washington, and surveys in 2013 and 2014 indicate that reintroduced fishers are now reproducing and are widely distributed on the Olympic Peninsula.

Habitat

Fishers inhabit coniferous and mixed coniferous-deciduous forests, and they tend to avoid areas with significant human activity and developed areas. Home ranges are commonly characterized by a mosaic of forest stand ages in low to mid-elevation forest landscapes, and these mosaics tend to be dominated by forests with mid-sized to large diameter trees. Fishers are consistently associated with forests that provide moderate to high canopy closure and the presence of large woody structures such as cavity trees, snags, and logs.

Conservation

Status report

Recovery 

Recovery Planning

Reintroductions

Cascade Reintroduction Project
Olympic Reintroduction Project
Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA)
CCAA management zones for fishers in Washington
CCAA management zones for fishers in Washington within the six areas outlined in black. Red ellipses represent candidate release sites for fishers in the Cascade Mountain Range.

Since 2008, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and its partners have successfully relocated 189 fishers from British Columbia and Alberta to Olympic National Park, Mt. Rainier National

Park, and other federal lands within the Cascade Mountain Range. In addition, WDFW has provided incentives to landowners and the forest industry to work as partners for fisher recovery through the Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA) program. A CCAA is a voluntary agreement whereby willing landowners agree to help promote the conservation of a species that may later become listed under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). In return, landowners receive assurances against additional land-use restrictions should the species covered by the CCAA ever become listed for protection under federal law.

In the spring of 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) took these efforts into account when it determined that the state's fisher population did not require protection under the ESA. At the time of this decision, WDFW had enrolled 25 landowners and 1.4 million acres. As of summer 2019, those numbers have increased to 58 landowners and over 3.027 million acres enrolled in the CCAA, helping significantly with fisher reintroduction and recovery efforts.

CCAA FAQ

What is the Fisher Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA)?
  • The Fisher CCAA is a conservation agreement between the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). It is designed to promote the conservation of fishers in Washington while also addressing landowner concerns about potential regulatory restrictions that could result from having a species on their land that could be listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). 
  • Participating landowners agree to follow conservation measures detailed in the CCAA to protect fishers that may move onto their lands. In return, enrolled landowners will receive assurances that USFWS will not require additional conservation measures or land, water, or resource use restrictions beyond those voluntarily agreed to in the CCAA.
Who is potentially eligible to enroll in the fisher CCAA?
  • Any non-federal landowner who owns forested lands near Washington's Olympic Peninsula, South Cascades or North Cascades fisher recovery zones (see map).
When can a landowner enroll in the fisher CCAA?
  • The USFWS approved the CCAA in 2016 and WDFW continues enrolling landowners. Eligible landowners can enroll in the CCAA any time prior to a point at which the species becomes listed under the ESA.
  • In September 2018, the Northern District Court for California overturned the 2016 USFWS decision to withdraw their proposed rule to list fishers under the ESA. The result is that the fisher is once again a candidate for listing under ESA. USFWS is required to re-evaluate the proposed listing rule and publish findings in September 2019.
Can CCAA enrollment continue if fishers are not federally listed?
  • Yes, landowner enrollment in the CCAA will continue so long as the species is not listed as threatened or endangered in Washington by USFWS. The 2018 court ruling highlights the advantage to landowners of enrolling in the CCAA, and WDFW continues seeking partnerships with landowners to help with fisher conservation and recovery.

What regulatory assurances are provided to landowners enrolled in the fisher CCAA?
  • Landowners choosing to enroll in the CCAA receive assurances that USFWS will not require additional conservation measures or land, water, or resource use restrictions beyond those they voluntarily agreed to under the CCAA.

What are the terms for landowners who enroll in the fisher CCAA in Washington?
  • Conservation measures included under the Fisher CCAA are outlined on Page 13 of the agreement. Those enrolled in the CCAA agree to:

  • Work with WDFW wildlife managers to monitor fishers and their dens in the event that a den site is found on their property;
  • Avoid harming or disturbing denning females and their young by limiting or preventing access and disturbance within 0.25 miles of known dens;
  • Protect denning females by prohibiting trapping and nuisance animal control activities within 2.5 miles of known occupied dens;
  • Cover large water troughs/containers on enrolled lands or install devices on water retention structures to prevent fishers from becoming entrapped;
  • Where landowners are interested and when supported by WDFW, allow fisher reintroductions in suitable habitat; and,
  • Report den sites and sick, injured, or dead fishers on enrolled lands.
  • The conservation measures go into effect as soon as the landowner signs on as a participant to the CCAA and remain in effect for the term of the agreement regardless of whether or not the species becomes federally listed.
How does this CCAA benefit fishers?
  • WDFW has been engaged in a reintroduction program to reestablish fishers in their former range throughout western Washington since 2008. Landowners participating in the CCAA are key partners in these efforts as fishers reestablish themselves in the state.
  • Since WDFW is actively recovering fishers through reintroductions, it is important that non-federal landowners continue to be supportive partners of these efforts. Fishers were reintroduced to the Olympic Peninsula from 2008-2010, with more recent fisher releases in the South Cascades from 2015-2018 and into the North Cascades beginning in winter 2018/2019.
  • Washington's current fisher recovery efforts are aided by increased monitoring and communication opportunities with non-federal landowners that may have fishers using habitat on their lands.
  • Breeding fishers are protected from disturbance and direct harm while they are raising young.
  • The threat of drowning in water troughs or other water retention structures on enrolled lands is reduced by preventing entry or providing means for a fisher to escape.
  • Additional fishers could be reintroduced onto CCAA-enrolled lands where participating landowners were interested and quality fisher habitat was available.
What is the term of the Fisher CCAA?
  • The Fisher CCAA was issued to WDFW in mid-April 2016 and will be effective for 20 years.
  • Landowners may choose to enroll in the Fisher CCAA for terms between 10 and 20 years initially. If WDFW seeks to extend the CCAA beyond the 20-year term and gains USFWS approval, landowners may voluntarily extend their participation if they choose to do so.
  • WDFW will continue enrolling willing landowners so long as the fisher is not listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA. If the species becomes listed as threatened or endangered, enrollment must cease. Only those landowners that have enrolled in the CCAA prior to the date the species is listed will receive the assurances provided in the agreement.
  • Although Washington fishers were not federally listed in 2016, it is unclear whether or not they will become listed under the ESA based upon the current re-evaluation by USFWS regarding whether or not they should be listed.
Can enrolled landowners leave the program before the term expires?
  • Yes. Enrollment in the Fisher CCAA agreement is voluntary and participating landowners may choose to discontinue participation at any time. However, choosing to end participation in the Fisher CCAA would terminate any assurances provided under the agreement.

What if I want to sell or transfer property covered under the Fisher CCAA?
  • The Fisher CCAA is tied to the participating landowner, not the property.
  • Enrollees are required to notify WDFW in writing within 30 days following sale or transfer of covered lands. Upon sale of the property, the new landowner is not obligated to follow any of the Fisher CCAA conservation measures.
  • If a property owner sells or gives away lands enrolled in the Fisher CCAA, the new owner can enroll the property in the CCAA if they chose to do so.
How does a landowner enroll in the Fisher CCAA?
  • If a landowner has questions or would like to enroll some or all of their lands, they can contact WDFW. Currently, the designated contact for the Fisher CCAA is Gary Bell (gary.bell@dfw.wa.gov; 360-902-2412).

Fact sheet