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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

REGION 8: Biologists Release Fishers to Historic Range in Northern Sierra Nevada Mountains

Region 8, December 8, 2011

Fishers were released in the northern Sierra Nevada today as part of a continuing effort to conserve the species. Scientists from the California Department of Fish and Game, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Sierra Pacific Industries, and North Carolina State University released the animals in the mountains east of Chico were they are believed to have been absent for nearly a century.

 

Today's release marks a milestone in this experimental effort to return the fisher to a portion of its former range in the northern Sierra Nevada Mountains. According to the USFWS, fisher populations are presently at low numbers or are absent throughout much of their historical range in the Pacific States. In addition to fishers experimentally released in the northern Sierra Nevada, their distribution in California is represented by populations in northern California and the southern Sierra Nevada. Those populations are separated by approximately 270 miles.

Although fishers have been reintroduced to many locations in North America, this is the first attempt in California. Since a primary conservation concern for fishers has been the reduction of their overall distribution, establishing them in a formerly occupied area, this is an important step toward strengthening the statewide population.

Fisher numbers were in decline as early as the 1920s. California prohibited commercial trapping of fishers in 1946. About the size of a house cat, fishers are members of the weasel family and are related to marten, wolverine, and mink. They once ranged from California’s southern Sierra Nevada north to British Columbia, but over trapping, loss and modification of habitat, and other sources of mortality have reduced fisher populations throughout its range.

The USFWS designated the west coast distinct population segment of fishers as a candidate species in 2004. That year, Sierra Pacific Industries offered their lands in the northern Sierra Nevada for consideration as potential sites to translocate fisher. Fish and Game analyzed those properties and considered the 160,000 acre Stirling Management Area to be the most suitable for fisher of the sites offered.

Using an important conservation tool to enable this translocation effort, the USFWS worked with Sierra Pacific to develop a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances that emphasized the growth of fisher denning and resting habitat. In exchange for these voluntary measures, SPI will receive regulatory certainties should the fisher become listed under the Federal Endangered Species Act over the 20-year life of the agreement.

This release will bring the total number of fishers translocated to Stirling over the past three years to 39. These animals have been equipped with telemetry devices to monitor their movements and survival. The study of fishers at the release site is being lead by Dr. Roger Powell and Aaron Facka, a Ph.D. student at North Carolina State University. The research team will continue to track the translocated fishers’ movements to learn how they disperse, select and use the habitat, and to monitor their survival and productivity.

"Because of the hard work and ongoing efforts of our conservation partners, we are achieving real results in fisher conservation," said Darrin Thome, Deputy Assistant Regional Director for Ecological Services, USFWS Pacific Southwest Region.

Dan Yparraguirre, acting Deputy Director for DFG said, "I am very encouraged by the results reported by scientists working on this project. Their findings indicate that most of the fishers released in previous years have survived and many are successfully reproducing in their new home, fueling hopes that the species can reoccupy this portion of its range. This is another example of the positive results that can be achieved when public and private interests work together to benefit wildlife."

More information on the fisher translocation project is available on the California Department of Fish and Game website at:
https://r1.dfg.ca.gov/portal/FisherTranslocation/tabid/832/Default.aspx.

Media Contacts:
Richard Callas, DFG, Northern Region (530) 459-5977
Cristen Langner, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8907
Scott Yaeger, USFWS, Yreka Field Office, (530) 842-5763
Mark Pawlicki, Sierra Pacific Industries, (530) 378-8104

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