For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 

Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

Pacific Fisher One Step Closer to Protection Under California Endangered Species Act

SACRAMENTO -  In response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity,
and in a stark departure from an August 2008 decision, the California
Fish and Game Commission voted to designate the Pacific fisher,
a rare forest carnivore that is one of the few species that preys on
porcupines, a candidate for protection as a threatened or endangered
species under the California Endangered Species Act and initiated a
review of the species to determine if full protection is warranted.

“The Pacific fisher has been devastated by a combination of historic
fur trapping and logging of its old-growth forest habitats,” said Noah
Greenwald, biodiversity program director at the Center for Biological
Diversity. “Without protection from continued logging on private and
federal lands, the fisher will go extinct.”

fisher once roamed from British Columbia to the southern Sierra. It was
extirpated from Washington and most of Oregon. In California, the
fisher is reduced to half of its historic range in two small
populations — one in the southern Sierra Nevada and one in northwestern
California. Both populations are threatened by continued logging.

“Protection of the fisher’s forest habitat is needed to ensure that
this beautiful animal once again thrives throughout the Sierra Nevada
and Northern California,” said Greenwald.

In August
2008, the Commission followed a recommendation by the Department of
Fish and Game to reject the petition. After a public-records act
request from the Center revealed that most of the Department’s own
biologists had in fact supported accepting the petition, and a decision
to reject a petition to protect the California tiger salamander was
overturned in state court, the Commission decided to reconsider its
decision, resulting in the vote to advance the fisher to candidacy.

“We’re delighted the Commission has seen the light and changed its decision to deny the fisher protection,” said Greenwald.

The fisher is also a candidate for federal protection. In 2000, the
Center submitted a petition to list the Pacific fisher as an endangered
species under the federal Endangered Species Act. In 2004, the Bush
administration determined that the Pacific fisher warranted protection,
but that such protection was precluded by lack of resources; instead of
protecting the fisher the administration placed it on the federal
candidate list, along with 250 other species. With the change in
administration, however, it is likely that the fisher will see federal
protection in the next few years.


Fisher Description and Natural History

The fisher has a long, slender body with short legs. Its head is
triangular, with a sharp, pronounced muzzle and large, rounded ears.
Fishers are mostly brown, with a long bushy tail. Males range up to 47
inches in length, while females typically only reach 37 inches. Fishers
run in a bounding gait, with their front feet leaping forward together,
followed by the back feet. Unlike other carnivores, such as cats and
dogs, fishers walk on their whole foot.

Contrary to
its name, the fisher does not eat fish. The name probably relates to a
poor translation of the name for the European polecat, which is a
relative of the fisher and is called the fitch ferret, fichet or
fitche. Rather than fish, the fisher has a diverse diet, preying on
small mammals, snowshoe hare, porcupine, birds, carrion, fruit and
truffles. Because it is the only animal that regularly preys on
porcupines, which often kill or damage small trees, the timber industry
reintroduced the fisher to many parts of the United States, including
the southern Cascades of Oregon. The fisher kills porcupines with
repeated bites to the face, devouring the porcupine via the quill-less
underbelly. Where fisher reintroductions have been successful,
porcupines have indeed declined in number.


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