The Pacific fishers that disappeared from the state of Washington in mid-1900s have reappeared in the thick forests of Mount Rainier National Park. On Friday, ten of these furred members of the weasel family were released in the Cascade Mountains south of Seattle as part of a multi-year effort to reintroduce the native species to its historical range, reports the Associated Press.
Fishers almost disappeared from Washington 70 years ago
Jeffrey Lewis of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said they were trying to correct something that they mismanaged long before people knew how to manage wildlife populations. Fishers once dominated much of the forest areas of the West Coast. But their population began declining rapidly in the 1800s and early 1900s because of hunters seeking their soft pelts and the loss of habitat.
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The ten fishers – including six males and four females – received a warm welcome at Mount Rainier National Park. A large crowd cheered and clapped, and members of the First Nations and American Indian tribes sang and drummed as each fisher poked its head out of the crate and entered the thick forest. These solitary animals are about the size of a cat. They munch on everything from small mammals to birds to fruits.
Bringing fishers to Mount Rainier was a long and tedious journey. According to The Seattle Times, they were trapped on First Nations land in British Columbia. The animals were held in captivity for weeks, were vaccinated and treated for any health problems before being brought across the border. In 1998, these animals were listed as state endangered species.
Reintroduction efforts showing positive results
Though fishers are pretty common in the Midwest and Northeast, they are rarely seen in the Northwest. On the West Coast, they are mostly found in northern California and southern Oregon. Recently, they have been facing threats from illegal pesticides used by marijuana producers. They are returning in Washington through efforts by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the National Park Service, Conservation Northwest, and others.
In the first step, about 90 fishers were reintroduced in Washington state in Olympic National Park in 2008. Those animals are reproducing and slowly expanding their geographic range. Last year, 23 were released into the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Biologists can track these animals with radio receivers that detect implanted transmitters.
Lewis said it was too early to say whether they are establishing a self-sustaining population, but the results have been positive so far.