Olympic Fisher Reintroduction Project

The Olympic Fisher Reintroduction Project released 90 fishers within Olympic National Park from 2008 to 2010. Three reintroduction areas within ONP were identified according to available habitat and habitat connectivity: Elwha-Sol Duc, Hoh-Bogachiel, and Queets-Quinault areas in ONP. Fishers were released in the late fall-early winter to allow them to acclimatize before winter, to establish home ranges, to locate suitable den sites before birthing season, and to find mates before mating season.

Fishers are forest-dwelling members of the mustelid (weasel) family that include weasels, mink, otter and martens. They weigh up to 12 pounds, have a dense coat of dark brown fur. Fishers are native to Washington state, including the ONP, though they were never abundant. Fishers’ disappearance from Washington, as with most of the West, was due to a combination of excessive fur harvest, predator control efforts, and habitat loss.

Fishers (Martes pennanti) eat mice, porcupines (carefully), squirrels, snowshoe hares, birds, shrew and carrion. Interestingly, fishers do not eat fish. They are agile tree climbers, and den in hollow logs and trees, stumps, brush piles and nests of branches. Ground burrows are most commonly used in winter. Home range size average 25 square kilometers. Fishers have good senses of smell, hearing and sight. They communicate with each other by scent marking.

Restoring fishers to the forests of Olympic National Park will help reestablish a native species and a natural balance between predators and prey. One of the primary goals of national parks is to allow natural processes to continue as nature intended. Additionally, Washington State has a stewardship responsibility to protect, restore, and enhance native wildlife populations within the state. Restoring fishers will be a step towards meeting both of these goals.

The OPAS Conservation Committee supported the reintroduction of fishers to ONP, writing in a comment letter: “Reintroducing this forest predator, a vital component of old growth forest ecosystems, would help restore important ecological functions to the Park and, moreover, offer the best opportunity to initiate a sustainable fisher population within Washington.”