Fisher (Martes Pennanti)


Winter in the Northeast is such a wonderful time to be outdoors. The air is cold and crisp and enlivening. The forest canopy has cleared itself of deciduous leaves and the understory of non-woody plants which gives the forest an incredible openess especially in comparison to the dense leaf cover of our summers.

Yet my favorite aspect of winter is by far the snow. Yes, its true that not every one enjoys shoveling sidewalks and driveways, spending an extra few minutes cleaning off the car with improper footwear or without gloves in a mad rush for work. However, I couldn't give up moonlit walks made brighter by the snow covered ground or the excitement of an enormous snowstorm ushered in with thunder echoing through the hillsides. Winter is a truly special time and for naturalists a wonderful time to look for animal track and sign.

Several weeks ago I went for a walk with a friend who alerted me to some Fisher tracks he'd found a day earlier. The night before we set out there was a dusting of an inch or so on top of an already existing hard crusted snow pack providing great conditions for tracking. Enough of a substrate to allow for prints to register and not enough snow to cause animals to change their gait (walking/running pattern) to compensate for moving through deep snow.

We found fresh tracks of a male Fisher and followed its explorations for a few hours. Fisher are of the weasil family, Mustelidae, and exhibit the morhpholoy or physical charactaristics of weasels along with many behavioral patterns. One such behavior that is quite charactaristic of fisher is its curiousity. We followed its trail, laughing with its apparent indecision of direction. Its trail led us up stumps, around the bases of trees, up dead trees, down the other side. It seemed to explore everything of remote interest in the forest, changing its direction of travel 90 degrees in an instant. We left it's trail for a while and picked it up again, which led us to a large white pine inhabited by four large porcupine resting in its branches.

Fisher are generally crepuscular animals (active mainly at dawn and dusk twilights), but a