NEAH BAY — The 18 fishers reintroduced into Olympic National Park (ONP) earlier this year by wildlife biologists were expected to do some roaming. But few expected one of the weasel-like animals to journey nearly 60 miles from its Elwha River watershed release site to the Makah Tribe’s reservation in Neah Bay. Crossing mountains, rivers and busy roads, the fisher reached the Makah Reservation over a period of six months.
Fishers were trapped to near extinction in Washington by 1930s, with pelts fetching up to $150. Weighing up to 12 pounds with dark brown fur, fishers are agile tree climbers that eat rabbits, mountain beavers, squirrels and birds. State, U.S. and Canadian federal agencies and non-government conservation agencies worked together to make the reintroduction of the fisher a reality.
All the fishers were fitted with tracking devices. When the traveling fisher was known to be on the Makah Reservation, Rob McCoy, tribal wildlife division manager, volunteered to help track its movement.”We are out tracking our radio-collared deer and bears as part of our work anyway,” said McCoy. “We record the fisher’s movements and send that information to ONP and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) every couple of weeks.”
“It would have been expensive and time-consuming to track one fisher that far out of the area from the rest of them,” said Patti Happe, ONP wildlife biologist. “It’s been great to have the Makah staff assist with this effort.”
While tracking the Neah Bay fisher in late October, the wildlife biologists noted that its tracking device was beginning to malfunction. A decision was made to recapture and fit it with a new radio collar. McCoy set three traps within the area of the fisher’s last known location. The fisher was captured within hours. Makah, ONP and WDFW personnel anaesthetized the animal to attach the new radio collar. He was released near the capture site the following day.
Since no other fishers will be released in the Neah Bay area, the wandering fisher is likely to move toward Olympic National Park in search of a mate late this winter. The reintroduction plan confines releases of fishers to Olympic National Park, although it is understood the animals may disperse outside ONP.
Additional males and females will be released in the Hoh River drainage in ONP in the future, increasing the odds the wandering Neah Bay male will run into a mate. A total of 100 fishers, obtained from British Columbia, will ultimately be released over a three-year period.
“The Makah Tribe, as co-managers of the wildlife resources on Olympic Peninsula, is happy to assist with the fisher reintroduction on the Olympic Peninsula and will continue to work with ONP and WDFW to ensure the success of the project,” said McCoy.
Regular updates about the fishers and the reintroduction are posted on the WDFW and ONP Web sites at wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/diversty/soc/fisher/updates.htm
For more information, contact: Rob McCoy, Makah Wildlife Division Manager, (360) 645-3058, Patti Happe, Olympic National Park wildlife management biologist, (360) 565-3000; Debbie Preston, Coastal Information Officer, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, (360) 374-5501, [email protected]