December was an exciting month for the Pacific Fisher in Washington! On December 2nd, as part of Washington State's Fisher Recovery Plan, ten fishers from British Columbia were released into Mt. Rainier National Park. Releases continued in Gifford Pinchot National Forest on December 10th, with more releases occurring in both areas throughout the rest of the month
Having been essentially extirpated in Washington around the 1930's from extensive trapping and habitat loss, the fisher was determined as endangered in the state in 1998. From there, a statewide reintroduction effort was devised, kicking off with the release of 90 fishers throughout the Olympic Peninsula between 2008 and 2011. While these fishers were continuing to be monitored, reintroductions began in Washington's Southern Cascades last year, with the release of 23 total animals, in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Of these 23, fisher M007 has drawn the attention of locals within the Naches Ranger District. This March, M007 was caught on a Conservation Northwest Citizen Monitoring camera, roughly 50 miles Northwest of the release site. You can read more about his detection here:
In mid-December, M007 was seen by a local cabin resident roughly 20 miles South of his previously photographed location and then spotted on a separate occasion in a nearby drainage less than two weeks later.
Throughout this winter, releases will continue in Mount Rainier National Park and Gifford Pinchot National Forest until a total of 80 individuals have set out into the Southern Cascades. In the winters following the Southern releases, a final reintroduction effort will begin in the North Cascades area with another 80 animals. Recovering a healthy fisher population in Washington may be slow as the new fishers adjust to challenges like habitat fragmentation, but the effort and support going into their reintroduction is very exciting! As low to mid elevation carnivores, we don't expect to detect fishers on our camera traps primarily set for high elevation carnivores, yet it is not out of the realm of possibilities and we'll be keeping an eye out for their sign!
You can stay updated on the reintroduced fishers on WDFW's page: http://wdfw.wa.gov/