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Division Seeking Assistance from Trappers on Fisher Population

October 15, 2007

Throughout the northeast, Fisher (Martes pennanti) populations have been expanding to their historic range by way of relocation efforts and natural migration. As they have recently been documented within New Jersey, trappers may have an encounter with one in the near future.

Fishers have the typical weasel shape, which consists of a long and slender body, well-furred tail constituting one-third of the body length, pointed face, rounded ears and short legs. Males are longer and heavier than females. Most females breed for the first time at 12 months and produce their first litter at 24 months. Breeding occurs during late March-early April soon after the birth of the current year's litter. Average litter size of captive fishers is 2.8 young, with a range of 1-6.

Fishers are usually found in mixed forests with a diversity of tree species and ages. Large areas of continuous overhead cover and availability of den sites are important factors in habitat selection, so you're not likely to encounter one in field or shrub habitats.

Fishers are opportunistic feeders, preying on small rodents and birds. They are also known to consume carrion (particularly deer) as well as fruits, nuts and berries. They are renowned for their ability to prey on porcupines (for which they have no competition), but do occur in areas devoid of this prey species.

Fishers are active both day and night with activity peaks at sunrise and sunset, and are more active in summer than in winter (late December to mid-February).

There is no trapping season for fisher in New Jersey at this time. The Fish and Game Council may authorize a season if or when their population reaches a sufficient level to sustain some degree of harvest. Trappers' cooperation in collecting the scientific data is a vital first step in this process. Should a trapper find a fisher in one of their traps, they should adhere to the following procedures:

1. Do NOT disturb the trap set in any way or remove the animal from the trap for any reason.

2. CALL the DEP Environmental Action Line at 1-877-WARN-DEP (1-877-927-6337) as soon as possible. When prompted by the recorded message, press '2' to report a non-emergency, wildlife problem.

The DEP dispatcher will notify the Division's Wildlife Control duty officer, who will then contact wildlife technician Joe Garris. Joe will then respond to calls directly and document the site. If the fisher is alive, Joe will assist in its release. If the fisher is not alive, Joe will collect the entire animal for further analysis.

For further information, please contact furbearer biologist Andrew Burnett at 609-748-2058.

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Copyright © State of New Jersey, 1996-2007
Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Updated: October 3, 2007