Biologists have temporarily halted plans to reintroduce fishers to forests in Washington’s North Cascades using animals from British Columbia.
The fishers–housecat-sized mammals related to otters and wolverines–typically come to Washington compliments of Canadian trappers operating in regions in British Columbia that have recently suffered dramatic habitat loss from fires.
“Before proceeding with restoration of fishers to the North Cascades, we must be sure that the source population in Canada remains robust and sustainable,” said Hannah Anderson, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) listing and recovery manager. “Conservation of the species as a whole remains our highest priority.”
Project partners emphasize that this is a delay, not an end to the project. WDFW, the US National Park Service and Conservation Northwest have been leading an effort to reintroduce fishers since 2008.
“We’ve made great progress restoring fishers to the Olympics and south Cascades, and we anticipate resuming reintroductions into the North Cascades as soon as possible,” said Dave Werntz, science and conservation director for Conservation Northwest.
The project team has also begun seeking other stable, healthy populations of fishers outside of central British Columbia that could serve as a source of animals for the ongoing effort.
Project partners released nearly 160 fishers on the Olympic Peninsula and in the South Cascades over the past decade, with growing evidence of survival, reproduction and population increases among the animals.
“Introduction of 80 additional fishers in the North Cascades is the third stage of the project and was scheduled to begin this winter,” said Dr. Jason Ransom, a wildlife biologist with the National Park Service.
Fisher project partners continue to document ongoing expansion of the fishers’ range, reproduction and survival that will one day take them off Washington’s endangered species list, adds Anderson.
“We are doing all we can to bring fishers back,” she said. “The timetable has changed, but the goal remains the same.”