A project to reintroduce the Pacific fisher to Mount Rainier National Park would be the first such effort at the park.
The public is being asked to comment on the plans, which include reintroducing the fisher to North Cascades National Park.
A member of the weasel family, the fisher lives in low- to mid-elevation closed-canopy forests with large trees and logs.
“We’re probably looking at a 2014 release date, that’s what we’re hoping for,” said Mason Reid, wildlife ecologist at Mount Rainier. “The goal is to reintroduce 40 animals a year for two years.”
Considered absent from the state since the mid-1990s, the Pacific fisher (Pekania pennanti) is the only native carnivore that is no longer found within the Cascade Range of the state.
In 1998, the state formally listed the fisher as endangered, and in 2004 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the West Coast fisher as a federal candidate for listing as an endangered or threatened species.
Mount Rainier staffers did extensive surveys using remote cameras but failed to locate any fishers, Reid said. He added that fishers were last listed in park reports in the 1930s.
“We haven’t had any sightings in a long, long time,” he said. “We do get reports from the public every once in a while, but they are not substantiated.”
“Reintroducing any species, much less one as wild as the fisher, is a complex and dynamic process and requires the collaboration of landowners and managers across the landscape to be successful,” North Cascades superintendent Karen Taylor-Goodrich said in a Park Service news release.
To restore this species to its historical range in Washington, Mount Rainier and North Cascades national parks are proposing to team up with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to reintroduce this species to the North and South Cascades — the last two of the three major ecosystems statewide where successful fisher reintroduction is needed in order to meet the state’s recovery goals for this species, according to a news release from North Cascades National Park.
The state agency and Olympic National Park staff successfully reintroduced fishers at Olympic National Park from 2008-2010. Thirty animals were released each of the three years.
Those animals were trapped in British Columbia.
Reid said a decline in the number of people trapping and potential protections being put on fishers in British Columbia have added urgency to the plan.
“We’ll also be able to draw on the lessons learned at Olympic, the successes and the issues,” he said.
“It’s really exciting. The nice things is fishers are not wolves, they’re not bears. They’re not going to make an impact that would make reintroduction difficult,” he added.
“This is pretty exciting times, both ecologically speaking and doing the actual reintroduction of a medium-level carnivore.”
Pacific fisher: Fishers have long, slender bodies with muscular, short legs similar to their cousins — weasel, mink, marten, and otter. Their thick, grayish-brown to brownish-black glossy fur tends to be darker on females. They have strong claws for climbing and a long, bushy, black, tapered tail. The also have five toes on each foot and semi-retractable claws which contribute to their ability to climb trees. Males average 4-12 pounds, about twice the size of females.
ONLINE: Go to wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/fisher/reintroduction.html.
To comment: Comments may be submitted by Sept. 30. They can be submitted online at parkplanning.nps.gov/restorefisher or by mail to North Cascades National Park Complex, 810 State Route 20, Sedro-Woolley, WA 98284.
Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640