Fishers making a comeback in Ohio

Jane BeathardAthens, Ohio – Fishers, woodland furbearers extirpated in Ohio since the mid 1800s, are making a comeback, according to state wildlife biologists.

Suzie Prange of the Ohio DNR’s Waterloo Research Station in Athens told state wildlife council members last month the agency has verified a handful of fisher sightings since 2009.

“We do think they are coming back,” Prange said. “But there’s no reproducing population.”

Fishers are found throughout northern North America and as far south as Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The Ohio DNR verified a fisher sighting in Washington County near Marietta about three years ago. Since then, other fishers turned up in northeast counties bordering Pennsylvania, Prange said.

As a result, the Ohio DNR placed fishers on a list of known furbearers in the state, laying the ground for future regulation of the species.

“We wanted to give them status in Ohio,” Prange said.

She emphasized fishers cannot yet be hunted or trapped in Ohio.

Fishers disappeared from the state’s landscape more than 150 years ago, as forests gave way to cities and towns. Their return likely accompanied the return of porcupines. The prickly woodland creatures are a favorite delicacy of fishers.

“Fishers are the only consistent predators of porcupines,” Prange said.

Fishers have a grisly, though efficient, way of dispatching porcupines. A fisher flips a porcupine onto its back, then tears into its underside.

“It’s not pretty,” Prange said.

Fishers are quick and able tree climbers that prey on other furbearers such as mink and marten.

According to the National Trappers Association, a male fisher can grow to 36 inches in length and weigh up to 12 pounds. Female fishers are about half the size of males. However, females may appear larger because their fur is longer and bushier.

Female pelts are prized on the fur market since they are silkier and softer than male pelts.

Categories: Ohio – Jane Beathard

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