Washington Fisher Restoration

A weasel-like mammal runs out of a wood box into snow as people with cameras watch.
A fisher being released at Mount Rainier National Park.

NPS/Kevin Bacher

A medium sized weasel-like mammal with brown fur, small round ears, and pointed nose.

John Jacobson, WDFW

Fishers in Washington
The fisher (Pekania pennanti) is a medium sized carnivore belonging to the weasel family. Known for their skillful and ferocious hunting, fishers are the only animal able to effectively predate porcupines. In the food web, they are secondary consumers and therefore prey on small animals like snowshoe hare and mountain beaver, while larger carnivores prey upon them. These forest dwelling mammals depend upon old growth forests to access sufficient resting and denning trees that are crucial for their survival and reproduction.

Fishers are comparable in size to a large house cat and have a distinct long bushy tail, short round ears and unique white patches on their chests. Fishers’ bodies appear low to the ground and they move with a bounding gate.

If you see a fisher, please contact us to provide information on your observation. Your help is greatly appreciated!
A fisher bounds out of a wooden box while children and people watch.
A fisher being released at Cispus Learning Center near Mount Rainier National Park.

Paul Bannick, Conservation Northwest

Historically a common species in Washington, fishers were over-trapped to extinction due to their highly valuable fur. Even after decades of absence from the ecosystem, fisher habitat and their prey base remains intact and abundant, making them exceptional candidates for a population restoration project. Washington is now actively restoring the fisher population by translocating fishers from a healthy British Columbia population to the evergreen state’s landscape. In the first phase of this state-wide project, the Olympic Peninsula released 90 fishers to establish a population there. After its success, the second phase of the project is now underway by translocating fishers to the Southern Cascades.

Seven fishers were released on December 3, 2015 at the Cispus Learning Center near Randle, Washington, marking their return to the Washington Cascades Mountain Range. Over the next several years Mount Rainier National Park along with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Conservation Northwest will work together to restore fishers. As of February 20, 2017, 69 fishers have been released at the Cispus Learning Center and at Mount Rainier National Park.

A weasel-like animal leaps out of a wooden crate.
A fisher released in the North Cascades on December 5, 2018.

Paul Bannick, Conservation Northwest

Six fishers were released on December 5, 2018, in the Skagit River watershed of Ross Lake National Recreation Area, a unit of the North Cascades National Park Service Complex. This is the first release in the North Cascades.

The five females and one male released were captured in Alberta, Canada as part of a multi-year project to reintroduce approximately 80 fishers to the North Cascades. They underwent veterinary checkups at the Calgary Zoo and were equipped with radio transmitters to track their movements over time. Conservation Northwest supports ongoing fisher monitoring with volunteers and remote cameras through its Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project.

The fisher restoration’s project goal is to release a total of 80 fishers in the southern Cascades and 80 fishers in the northern Cascades in order to establish a healthy and self- sustaining population of Washington fishers!

A small plane with a green stripe.
A fixed-wing aircraft used to search for fisher transmitter signals.

NPS/Elissa Gordon

To monitor released fishers, project biologists fly in a fixed-wing aircraft, listening for unique signals that each fisher sends out through their implanted transmitter. Tracking movements of each animal is an exciting process and enables scientists to discover important information about these forest carnivores. Using this technique, fishers have been observed crossing roads, rivers, and areas with little habitat! It also provides data on which individuals are currently alive, where they have settled, which individuals are near each other entering the breeding season, and so much more!

Cascade Fisher Reintroduction Project Video
Cascades Fisher Reintroduction Project Progress Report for December 2015 to March 2017

Stay tuned to see what else project scientists discover during these fisher location flights and follow the link for more information on fishers in Washington and other fisher restoration project updates! http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/fisher/
Hosted by Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife

Last updated: October 23, 2019