Firstly, the fisher cat is not a cat. Fishers belong to the weasel family, and are known by several other names as well. More interesting facts about fishers are lined up here.
Did You Know?
The fisher is among the few animals which can kill a porcupine. It attacks the porcupine’s face and bites it, and thus gets spared from those piercing quills.
As far as names go, no animal has had it quite like the fisher―it is, for some strange reason, called the fisher cat when it’s clearly not a feline, and neither is it an active consumer of fish.
The fisher (Martes pennanti) is a mammal, part of the mustelid family, commonly referred to as the weasel family. It is native to the hilly forests of North America.
It was perceived to be endangered until a few years ago, but recent reviews conducted in the U.S. Northern Rocky Mountains region have concluded that it does not warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act in Idaho, Montana, or Wyoming.
Fishers have a long body, and it always looks stockier compared to most other mustelids owing to its long fur. Its fur is the color of dark chocolate, and is coveted by hunters. It has a broad head, a pointed snout, and small ears. The tail is quite bushy. The paws are tipped with long talons. Male fishers are larger in size than the females.
They are about 3 feet long, with a tail that extends to about 15 inches. Males weigh around 12 lbs, and females, 8 lbs.
Fishers are adept at hunting, as is evident from the fact that they are among the few who can kill porcupines. They are not too fussy about food and consume anything they catch, which may include small rodents, rabbits, hares, and birds. They also eat carrion. In the absence of prey, they may consume berries, nuts, and insects.
They are quite agile, are expert climbers, but are mainly terrestrial. Fishers prefer large areas of dense mature coniferous or mixed forest and are known to be solitary hunters. They are predominantly nocturnal, but may be active during the day. They trek several miles in search of prey, seeking shelter in hollows of trees, logs, crevices found in rocks, and abandoned dens. Fishers are known to avoid areas with dense human settlements and scant forest cover. They make use of scents to mark their territory. These markings are used around its home range frequently, following well-used trails.
Fishers mate in the early spring months of March and April. The gestation period is between ten to eleven months. The female can have anywhere between one to six kits―the chosen place of birthing is usually a nest built in the hollow of a tree. Fisher kits are blind at birth, and the mother takes care of them until the age of five months. They are then encouraged to move apart individually, after which they take around a year to establish their own territory.
► Fishers have been a popular target of trappers as their lustrous fur fetches a decent sum in the market. Their population shrunk a great deal owing to this, especially in northern United States, but protective measures ensured that fishers are no longer considered endangered here.
► However, fishers continue to be under threat from over-harvesting of pelts and loss of forest habitat due to logging and road building. The increased frequency of forest fires throughout the fisher’s range also destroys the older, cavity-bearing trees they need for denning.
► Fishers are not considered ideal animals to be kept captive. One can’t spot them even in zoos, as they aren’t the best exhibit―being nocturnal, solitary, and shy, they tend to hide from humans.
► Although they avoid mingling among humans, there have been rare instances of fishers raiding chicken coops and preying on small pets.