No mercy for opossum during fisher encounter

One of my dad’s trail cameras in southeastern Minnesota caught some wildlife drama overnight.

As this blog has documented before, fishers slowly are repopulating southeast Minnesota, and my dad has seen a couple pop up on his trail cams on the Houston-Winona County border in past years. Most folks associated fishers with the great northwoods, but southeast Minnesota has proved legit habitat for these animals in recent years.

My dad, Robert L. Drieslein, hadn’t seen any fishers on his property in 2021, but Wednesday night certainly produced some action for one of these large members of the weasel family… and an unlucky opossum that got in its way.

M2e1l0 0r350b320The series of images show a fisher hot on the tail of North America’s only marsupial, then there are several shots of the predator holding fast to its prey. It’s hard to tell the size, but the so-called Virginia opossum is not a small animal, with Minnesota versions probably averaging small house cat size. But the fisher is clearly larger, and my dad says the color markings are different than on fishers his trail cameras have photographed before.

M2e1l0 0r350b320The trail camera that produced these images covers an apple tree in my parents’ yard just 40 yards from their home. A bobcat had tripped the same trail cam a couple weeks earlier.

I shared the images with John Erb, the DNR’s furbearer specialist from Grand Rapids, and he said they marked the third possum-fisher interaction video or photo series he’s received from southern Minnesota the past two years. One other came from the southeast and another one came from southwest Minnesota along the shores of Big Stone Lake.

M2e1l0 0r350b320My dad wondered if the opossum was trying to play dead, a tactic that probably wouldn’t get it very far with a lethal fisher. There was no sign of the tussle, or the opossum, this morning.

“I got a hunch he got eaten,” Dad said.

M2e1l0 0r350b320Given that opossums have been crawling their way farther into warmer north country in recent years, these are two species that probably haven’t interacted much in recent North American history, Erb noted.

“With a fisher, playing dead probably gets the same result as being dead, but who knows?” Erb said via email. “200 years ago, maybe even 20 years ago, nobody would have bet that these two species would stumble in to each other.”

At least one opossum probably regrets his species’ immigrating to new country.

Categories: Rob Drieslein

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