Fishers Follow Coyotes, Deer, Etc. Into Civilization

The fisher (

Martes pennanti

), a large and once-reclusive member of the weasel family, has joined the ranks of North American

wild animals

that have reconsidered how wild they have to be. The fur-bearing carnivores are no longer staying away the places where humans live—at least, the places humans live in the Eastern United States. Roland Kays of the New York State Museum is using the New York Times’ “Scientist at Work” blog to

report on his project tracking fishers

around Albany:

By the 1980s fishers were found in a variety of forested areas, not just wilderness. With carefully managed trapping seasons, Northeast fishers expanded their populations in all directions.

….The contrast between Eastern and Western fishers could not have been more stark than in 2000, when conservation groups sued to have the Western fisher listed as an endangered species, and we got our first camera-trap photograph of an Eastern fisher moving through suburban Albany. In a century the Northeastern fisher had gone from wilderness animal to suburban predator, while its cousins in California struggled to maintain their populations even in wild forests.

The fishers in the New York State suburbs still “do their best to avoid people,” Kays writes. But like coyotes,

mountain lions

, and other animals that were driven off by European settlers’ guns, traps, and land-clearing, the big weasels have figured out that humans aren’t as dangerous as they used to be.