Restoration of the Fisher Continues in Olympic National Park
Fishers are about the size of a cat and are members of the weasel family, related to minks, otters and martens. A total of 18 of the animals, each fitted with a tiny radio transmitter, were released in Olympic National Park last January and March, in Washington State’s first reintroduction of the species. Of the 18, only three are known to have died.
“We’re very pleased at how well the fishers have survived – an 81 percent survival rate is quite high and is very encouraging as we begin year two of this project,” said Olympic National Park Superintendent Karen Gustin.
Biologists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and Olympic National Park (ONP) are still monitoring 13 of the reintroduced animals. Three of the fishers released last winter have died and radio transmitters on two others no longer function. Scientists analyzed two of the carcasses, learning that one animal was killed by a bobcat in the Elwha Valley and one was fatally injured by a vehicle while crossing Highway 101 near Forks. The third animal died in a remote area of Olympic National Park and has not been recovered.
Fishers are native to the forests of Washington, including the Olympic Peninsula, but vanished from the state decades ago because of over-trapping in the late 1800s and early 1900s and habitat loss and fragmentation. Fishers were listed as a state endangered species in 1998 by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission and were designated as a candidate for federal listing in 2004 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Endangered Species Act.
Fisher reintroduction to Olympic National Park is made possible through a partnership of agencies and organizations. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Olympic National Park are joint project managers and, along with the U.S. Geological Survey, are leading a research and monitoring program to evaluate the success of the reintroduction.
The fishers to be released this year will also will wear radio transmitters, allowing biologists to track their movements and activities and adding to scientists’ understanding of the fisher’s role in the ecosystem. Over the duration of this three-year project, a total of approximately 100 fishers will be released within Olympic National Park; information gathered through monitoring helps biologists to refine the project.
“Our hope is that the successful reintroduction of the fisher can be used as a model for the future return of other historically present species in Olympic National Park,” said David Graves, Northwest Field Representative for NPCA. “NPCA is currently looking at other species we believe should be returned to national parks in the Northwest. Starting with the fisher is a good beginning.”
Fisher reintroduction to Olympic National Park was examined in an environmental assessment released in September 2007. Nearly 200 comments, including many from members of the National Parks Conservation Association, were received and a Finding of No Significant Impact was signed in November 2007, paving the way for fisher restoration.