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Wildlife officials wanted to bring these critters back to the North Cascades. Now the plan is on hold

Watch as fishers are released into the Cascades

The seven newest residents of Gifford Pinchot National Forest darted into the rain-soaked, fern-covered forest Thursday morning, Dec. 3, 2015, the first of multiple releases to reintroduce the fisher to the Cascades.
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The seven newest residents of Gifford Pinchot National Forest darted into the rain-soaked, fern-covered forest Thursday morning, Dec. 3, 2015, the first of multiple releases to reintroduce the fisher to the Cascades.

A plan to restore fishers, a mammal related to otters and wolverines, to the North Cascades has been delayed because of wildfires in British Columbia this summer.

Federal, state and nonprofit agencies have been working to restore fishers throughout the Cascade Mountains, and planned to bring some from British Columbia to the North Cascades this month. But massive wildfires in B.C. put those plans on hold, state Department of Fish & Wildlife officials said.

In other areas where fishers have been released, including last year at Mount Rainier National Park in the South Cascades, the animals were taken from parts of British Columbia that were impacted this year by fires.

The agencies working to restore fishers here don’t want to take animals from an area where the species recently lost habitat to fires.

“Before proceeding with restoration of fishers to the North Cascades, we must be sure that the source population in Canada remains robust and sustainable,” Fish & Wildlife’s Hannah Anderson said in the release. “Conservation of the species as a whole remains our highest priority.”

fisher release1
The box door opened and a momentary blur later this Fisher was gone during the release of six fishers, members of the weasel family, into the wild in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest near Randle, Washington on Dec. 3, 2015. Fishers disappeared in Washington State nearly 70 years ago as they were hunted and trapped into extinction for their luxuriant fur coat. Department of Fish and Wildlife officials hope to rebuild the population starting in the South Cascades and work north. Dean J. Koepfler The News Tribune

The state Fish & Wildlife Commission voted earlier this month to keep fishers on the state’s endangered species list.

Because of hunting and habitat loss, fishers disappeared from the state in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and efforts to protect and restore them to the state’s mountain regions have not yet increased the population enough to warrant removing them from the endangered species list, according to Fish & Wildlife.

Fish & Wildlife, the National Park Service and Bellingham-based Conservation Northwest have been leading the effort to restore fishers to the state since 2008.

They have released about 160 on the Olympic Peninsula and in the South Cascades over the past decade, and are seeing evidence of survival, reproduction and population increases, according to a news release.

The group is now looking for other potential sources of fishers to bring to the North Cascades.

“We’ve made great progress restoring fishers to the Olympics and South Cascades, and we anticipate resuming re-introductions into the North Cascades as soon as possible,” Dave Werntz, science and conservation director for Conservation Northwest, said in the release.

Jason Ransom, a wildlife biologist with the National Park Service, said the goal is to bring another 80 fishers to the North Cascades.

“We are doing all we can to bring fishers back,” she said. “The timetable has changed, but the goal remains the same.”

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