Despite serious threats, rare carnivore left to fend for itself
BOZEMAN, Mont.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined today that fishers in Montana and Idaho do not warrant federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.
In the western U.S., fishers once roamed throughout the dense forests of the Northern Rockies and from the Pacific Northwest to the southern Sierra Nevada. Today, populations have declined significantly due to historic and ongoing trapping and logging, leaving only tiny, disconnected islands in each region. In 2004, the Fish and Wildlife Service determined the West Coast fisher population warranted protection as a threatened species, but has to date failed to provide those protections. Now the Rocky Mountain fishers have been denied protection altogether.
“Today’s decision is a major disappointment. Fishers in the Northern Rockies should at least be on equal footing with fishers in their West Coast range, but neither population can afford to wait for help,” said David Gaillard of Defenders of Wildlife, who drafted the petition to protect the Rocky Mountain population. “The rarest carnivore in the Rockies may just disappear unless we take swift action to prevent any further decline.”
“The rarest carnivore in the Rockies may just disappear unless we take swift action to prevent any further decline.”
– David Gaillard, Defenders of Wildlife
“Fishers are important not only in their own right, as fascinating hunters in our oldest forests, but also as an indicator of those forests where they still survive,” said Gary Macfarlane of Friends of the Clearwater. “When we reduce and fragment our old growth forests from roads, logging and other developments, fishers are among the first animals to disappear.”
“Fishers in the northern Rocky Mountains need protection,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “In the coming weeks we will be taking a close look at what further action is needed to save this important species.”
The conservation groups that petitioned the Fish and Wildlife Service to list the Rocky Mountain fisher population include Defenders of Wildlife, Friends of the Clearwater, Friends of the Bitterroot, and Center for Biological Diversity.
The fisher, a rare and agile forest hunter prized for its thick, soft fur, is a member of the weasel family similar to otters and minks, and closely related to the marten. Despite their name, fishers do not prey on fish. Fishers live primarily in old-growth forests, where they prey on snowshoe hares and other small mammals and birds and have a remarkable ability to successfully hunt porcupines. In fact, timber companies often value fishers because they can reduce tree damage caused by porcupines.
Map of fisher range in the western U.S., past and present: http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/fisher/