The Fisher Cat
The Fisher Cat is not really a cat at all but rather a member of the weasel family. In the 1900s these mammals were nearly trapped out of existence because of demand for their long dark fur. They are beginning to be seen again in the Northeast due to reintroduction and reforestation programs. The Fisher Cat or Fisher is a medium-sized forest dwelling mammal. He prefers areas with overhead cover (canopy) and is an agile climber. The Fisher is 3-4’ long with a long bushy tail and weighs from 4-12 pounds. The female is smaller than the male and has a more luxuriant coat. The Fisher has a long tapered muzzle with 38 teeth. The Fisher’s dense glossy coat is deep brown to black in color. His short legs keep him low to the ground while his large wide feet enable him to travel more easily across ice and snow in winter. The Fisher has five toes with retractable claws and four central pads on each foot. A mobile ankle joint makes it possible for him to rotate his hind paws 180° allowing him to move quickly through tree branches and climb down trees headfirst. He is one of the few Northeastern mammals that can actually hunt in the trees. The Fisher travels with a loping gait and is very agile when chasing his prey.
The Fisher is a solitary animal that prefers to hunt and live alone except during mating season. He is omnivorous but prefers snowshoe hare, rabbits, squirrels, small rodents, birds and porcupine. The Fisher is one of the few animals that will actually stalk, kill and eat porcupines. The Fisher will supplement his diet with carrion, berries, nuts, and mushrooms.
The Fisher dens in hollow trees, hollow logs, rocky outcrops and underground burrows. The preferred den location for birthing is in a hollow section of a tree far above the ground. Kits are born in the early Spring with three or four in a litter. By Fall they are ready to go out on their own.
Fishers seldom travel in open areas and tend to be nocturnal so they are not seen very often. You may be able to find a Fisher by tracking his distinctive footprint or by hearing his unusual cry. If you hear an eerie call that sounds much like a child screaming, keep your eyes open and search hard–it might just be a Fisher Cat.