Stan, one of eight fishers released back into the woods, runs past guests at the Buck Creek Campground in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest on Oct. 24. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Stan, one of eight fishers released back into the woods, runs past guests at the Buck Creek Campground in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest on Oct. 24. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Fishers, a weasel relative, are back in the North Cascades

Hunted to near-extinction for their expensive furs, wildlife experts are confident they’re here to stay.

DARRINGTON — Fishers, with long furry bodies, retractable claws and bushy tails, are a cat-sized member of the weasel family.

Starting in the 1800s, trappers seized on the mammal for its high-priced fur, making the wolverine relative nearly extinct from the state by the mid-1900s.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, with the help of the National Parks Service and Conservation Northwest, led efforts to release eight fishers late last month into the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

“Everyone is pleased, except perhaps the porcupines and hares,” Conservation Northwest executive director Mitch Friedman said in a news release.

One by one, the four male and four female fishers, each given a name from the Harry Potter series, were let out of boxes and darted for the woods as the crowd of more than 50 environmental agency and nonprofit officials, tribal members and spectators watched.

The animals were trapped in Alberta, Canada. Then, Calgary Zoo veterinarians screened the fishers and implanted them with tracking chips.

“Re-introductions are one of the best tools we have in the fight against species loss and seeing these strong and healthy Alberta carnivores released into pristine forest habitat, is very rewarding,” zoo President Clement Lanthier said in a news release.

After a cushy stay in Canada, the fishers were flown to the border to be picked up by state wildlife officials, who transported them to Buck Creek Campground in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

Zack Blanco, of Darrington, blows air into a box to get a fisher to run out and into the forest on Oct. 24 in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Zack Blanco, of Darrington, blows air into a box to get a fisher to run out and into the forest on Oct. 24 in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

“It’s good to send them out the door with a full belly and a little extra poundage on them,” said Jason Ransom, a wildlife biologist for the National Parks Service. “They’ve got to find that special little hide-y-hole and figure out how to make a living.”

Ransom said he’ll be tracking the fishers for the next year and a half.

The release was partially funded by Washington’s National Parks Fund, a nonprofit that raises money for projects at the Mount Rainier, Olympic and North Cascasdes national parks, board member Jillian Kosic said.

Kosic was joined by Kalin Magruder, who won the chance to release a fisher at a parks fund auction last spring.

“They looked adorable and it sounded awesome,” Magruder said. “Washington national parks, our wildlife and everything we have to offer is pretty incredible. Any way we can give back to support that and encourage it to grow is totally worth it to me.”

While their population was harvested to near extinction in the Northwest, the region is still a proper home for fishers, state Fish and Wildlife biologist Jeff Lewis said.

“These old forests have a lot of large downed logs, snags (decomposing trees) and large cavity trees that fishers use for rest sites and pen sites,” Lewis said. “They’re really kind of part and parcel of what fisher habitat is.”

Thursday’s event marked the second step in bringing fishers back to the North Cascades and third phase of reintroduction efforts in the state for the animal.

Last winter, 26 fishers were released in the North Cascades. Ten more were added in early October.

In the South Cascades, state agencies released 73 more, starting in 2015.

Before that, 90 fishers were placed in the Olympic National Park between 2008 and 2010.

Joey Thompson: 425-339-3449; Twitter: @byjoeythompson.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Dominic Wilson looks at his mother while she addresses the court during his sentencing at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Wednesday, March 15, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Grief remains after sentencing of Marysville teen’s killers

Dominic Wilson must serve 17½ years in prison, while his accomplice Morzae Roberts was given a sentence of four years.

The Washington State University Everett campus on Wednesday, July 25, 2018 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
WSU ends search to buy land for future branch campus in Everett

The university had $10M to spend. It tried for four years but couldn’t close deals with Everett’s housing authority or the city.

Former Opus Bank/Cascade Bank building in downtown Everett on Thursday, March 16, 2023 in Everett, Washington. It is proposed as the new home of Economic Alliance Snohomish County. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Economic Alliance asks Everett for $300K to move downtown

The countywide chamber of commerce and economic development organization also would reform the Everett chamber.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Mountlake Terrace leaders weighing federal ARPA fund options

Bathrooms, body cameras, generators, radios, roadwork, roof replacement, sidewalks, trails and more loom for the $4.5 million.

Vehicles on Soper Hill Road wait in line to make unprotected left turns onto Highway 9 northbound and southbound during the evening commute Wednesday, March 15, 2023, in Lake Stevens, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lake Stevens development prompts Highway 9 signal change soon

Turning left from Soper Hill Road can be a long wait now. Flashing yellow turn signals could help with more traffic.

Defense attorney Natalie Tarantino gives her opening statement in the trial of Richard Rotter at the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett, Washington on Monday, March 20, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Police give emotional testimony at Rotter trial

On the second day of trial in the slaying of Everett officer Dan Rocha, witnesses described a hectic scene after the shooting.

The Walmart Store on 11400 Highway 99 on March 21, 2023 in in Everett, Washington. The retail giant will close the store on April 21, 2023. (Janice Podsada / The Herald)
Walmart announces Everett store on Highway 99 will close on April 21

The Arkansas-based retail giant said the 20-year-old Walmart location was “underperforming financially.”

Michael Tolley (Northshore School District)
Michael Tolley named new Northshore School District leader

Tolley, interim superintendent since last summer, is expected to inherit the position permanently in July.

The drugs seized from a Clorox box and an air mattress box in the car of a courier in November 2020. (U.S. Attorney's Office)
Relatives of Arlington fentanyl, meth ringleader get federal prison

Jose Arredondo-Valdez, the cousin of Cesar Valdez-Sanudo, got nine years Tuesday. Valdez-Sanudo’s wife got 30 months.

Most Read