Pointed face, rounded ears, short legs. Fur
is usually black on tail, legs, and rump. Fur
on head and shoulders may have a grizzled appearance
resulting from tri-colored guard hairs. White
patches are common around the genital area and in
the axillae of the forelegs. Both males and
females have paired scent glands which are used for
23 to 40 inches. Weight: 3 to
Inhabits closed canopy, mature coniferous and
deciduous forest. Availability of food is an
important habitat component. Large deciduous
trees are often used as maternal den sites.
Prey items are animals associated with the
coniferous forest. Will also consume carrion
and plant materials. Snowshoe hares, mice,
squirrels, shrews, and birds are staple foods.
Famous for ability to prey on porcupines.
Active during both day and night. Most hunting
takes place on the ground. Most females breed
for the first time at 12 months and produce their
first litter at 24 months. Breeds during March
and April. Produces one litter of about 3
young per year.
Marten - smaller, buffy patch on throat and breast.
Wolverine - has yellowish stripes on sides and rump.
Red fox - has a white tip on tail.
Fisher are woodland animals,
and among the most effective predators on land. They
are also the fastest American animal in trees.
Females are less than half as big as males, yet
command higher fur prices due to an extremely soft
and silky fur. Also known in areas as fisher
cat, black cat, tree fox or pekan, fisher have been
known to follow trap lines, destroying the catches
before the trapper arrives. Destruction of
woodlands and high fur prices caused population
declines up until the 1940's, but protection and
reintroduction's have encouraged good fisher
populations in many suitable habitat types.
Fisher are usually dark brown in color. Males
oftentimes have a lighter grizzled coloration on the
face, head and over the shoulders. The
longer guard hairs in the fur are 1 1/2 to 2
inches on the body and 1/2 inch longer on the tail.
The fur on males is much coarser than on the females and
both are darkest on tail and legs. Two small, white
patches of fur are found in the front armpit areas.
Males may measure 36 inches or
longer and adult males often weight 10 to 12 pounds.
Males rarely weigh more than 14 pounds.
Females weigh about 1/3 of the average weight of males
and most females are about the size of large mink,
although their longer fur makes them appear to be
larger. Typical females weigh between 4 and 5 pounds.
Fisher have 38 teeth, including
four sharp canine teeth and flat topped molars to aid in
chewing. Five toes register in fisher tracks and
the inside toes are smaller and placed behind the other
four. The fisher cannot retract it's claws and
they are usually dulled somewhat by constant contact
with the ground and rocks.
A pair of anal musk glands are
present on both males and females and their musk is
often released when the fisher is frightened or angry.
Female fisher mate 6 to 8 days after giving birth to
their litters and delayed implantation causes a
gestation period averaging 352 days or nearly a year.
Breeding normally occurs during late March or early
April, and the fertilized eggs do not become
attached to the female's uterus until the following
January, after which the growth of the litter begins.
One to four young are born in
March or April and 2.7 is an average litter size.
More females than males are usually born, contrary to
most other furbearing species. The young are cared
for strictly by the mother fisher and the natal den is
usually in a hollow tree although a fisher will use an
underground den if a better location is not available.
Females usually breed when they are one year of age and
males do not breed until they are two years of age.
Tracks in the snow are often the only sign easily
noticed when fisher are present in an area, as the
species is not usually observed in the wild.
Fisher are solitary animals throughout most of the year,
although snow tracking often indicates that two or more
fishers will hunt in parallel patterns. Activity
is mostly at night, although it appears that fishers
hunt frequently during daylight hours in wilderness
Male territories are larger than
female territories and the sizes of these regularly
patrolled areas vary according to the availability of
prey species. A 10 square mile territory is
typical for a female fisher and males commonly hunt a 30
square mile area. Circuits are irregularly
patrolled although fishers travel pretty much in a
straight line when they have determined to go to a
certain location. Males usually pass through a
given area in their territory about once every two
weeks. Female circuits in winter usually vary from
3 days to a week.
Both male and female fisher are
highly skilled predators and territory relocation are
sometimes necessary as fishers are capable of
overharvesting prey species. Fisher are
aggressive hunters and competition with other
furbearers is not only for the same prey species, but by
direct contact. Raccoon may be killed by a
large fisher in trees or on the ground.
Fisher can also catch marten on the ground or in the
trees, and usually there is either a good
population of fisher or marten but not both.
There is strong evidence to suggest that fisher kill
significant numbers of bobcat kittens too. Mother
bobcats must leave their kittens unattended to hunt and
there is no safe place in which to hide a bobcat den
from a hunting fisher.
Snowshoe hares are a preferred
food and a main reason that fisher like to frequent the
dense cedar swamps. With keen senses of sight and
smell, fisher often stalk the snowshoe rabbits, but they
will trail them as well by scent alone. Red
squirrel are a common prey species and fisher also eat
mice, rats, voles, and shrews, which are avoided
by most predators due to a musky odor.
Grouse and ptarmigan are eaten regularly and there are
records of fisher killing fox, mink and otters.
Fisher are skilled at killing
porcupines. Attacks are to the face of the
porcupine as the fisher circles and circles the
porcupine who attempts to keep it's back toward the
fisher. After repeated attacks to the quill free
facial area, the porcupine becomes vulnerable to a
throat attack. Porcupine are not safe when
climbing trees, as fishers simply attack them from top
side. Porcupines may be safe from fisher attacks
when they are on branches and facing away from the
fisher, or when they are in a position to hide their
faces in a crevice or hole. Fisher often clean
these skins as clean as if they had been skinned by a
man. Fisher droppings often include quills,
which seem to pass through the digestive system without
Uneaten foods are usually cached
for later use by fishers and the species will sometimes
deposit their musk on the uneaten portions to discourage
other animals. Fisher also eat carrion and
substantial amounts of wild berries in season.
was once thought that fisher required mature forests,
but the species can thrive in newer second growth
forest, favoring large tracts of pine, spruce, aspen,
birch and cedar swamps. Good populations are
considered to be one fisher per 10 square miles.
As the only consistent predator of porcupines, fisher
provide a service by controlling this species, as well
as the damage that the porcupines inflict upon forests.
Fisher contribute to the overall
health of prey species when their densities are light or
moderate. Dense populations of fisher create
problems for a variety of other species, including other
furbearers. Fisher do have to abandon territories as
food sources become depleted and less mobile furbearers
can become malnourished when competing for the same prey
species as fisher.
Predation upon fisher by other
predators is not thought to be serious. A lynx or
bobcat will rarely kill a fisher and wolves have been
known to kill fisher caught out on frozen lakes.
Young fisher are killed at times by large owls, eagles
and coyotes. The solitary nature and
infrequent use of the same dens keeps fisher free of
most diseases and parasites. Mange can occur
and fisher are also vulnerable to distemper, fleas,
tapeworms and nematodes.
Ten years of age is considered
old in a fisher.
Best Management Practices
Special Regulations Note
TRAPPING DISTRICTS 1 & 2
SEASON DATES: December 1 - February 15 of the
following year. Season will close in 48 hours upon
reaching the trapping district quota or on the season
closure date, whichever occurs first.
may take and possess one (1) fisher each per season.
Trappers that accidentally
capture a fisher that cannot be released uninjured must
immediately notify a designated Fish, Wildlife & Parks
employee for assistance to determine disposition and/or
collection of the animal. It is unlawful for any person
to retain possession of a furbearer after a species
limit has been met, a trapping district quota has been
reached, or a season is closed. (MCA 87-3-501).
harvest quota information may be obtained by calling the
appropriate Fish, Wildlife & Parks regional office
during normal business hours or by calling
1-800-711-TRAP (1-800-711-8727) 24 hours a day or the
FWP website at fwp.state.mt.us. The toll free line and
website are updated by 1 pm. (MST) every day. Furbearer
seasons will close in 48 hours when a species quota is
reached prior to the end of the regular season.
The Fish, Wildlife & Parks
Commission has authorized the department to initiate a
closure prior to reaching a quota or subquota when
conditions or circumstances indicate the quota may be
reached within the 48-hour closure notice period.
Trappers are required to personally report their fisher
harvest within 24 hours by calling the Fish, Wildlife &
Parks regional office during office hours (8 AM - 5 PM
weekdays) in the trapping district where the animal was
taken so that FWP can monitor quota levels. Reporting
can also be made after office hours and on weekends by
Trappers are required to personally present the pelts of
fisher for tagging to a designated Fish, Wildlife &
Parks employee residing in the trapping district where
the animal was taken within five (5) days of harvest.
Trappers or hunters unable to comply with the five day
pelt tagging requirements due to special circumstances
or the unavailability of local FWP personnel must still
register their pelts within five days of harvest by
calling the proper regional office to make arrangements
for tagging by FWP personnel at a later time. Pelts not
presented or registered to department personnel within 5
days are subject to confiscation.
is mandatory that the entire and intact carcass of all
fisher be turned into Fish, Wildlife & Parks in good
condition, at the time the pelt is presented for
tagging. The skulls will be retained by Fish, Wildlife &
Parks for processing and examination and then returned
to the owner if desired. Good condition is defined as
fresh or frozen and securely wrapped in such a manner as
to have prevented decomposition in order that all tissue
samples are suitable for lab analysis. Any fisher pelt
that is presented for tagging without the carcass in
good condition shall be subject to confiscation.