Olympic Peninsula treaty tribes are helping monitor fishers that have been reintroduced to Olympic National Park.
Starting this summer, and for the next several years, the Lower Elwha Klallam, Jamestown S’Klallam, Port Gamble S’Klallam, Skokomish, Makah and Quileute tribes will be collecting hair samples and photos of the small mammals.
Fishers are members of the weasel family, and historically were found throughout the western United States. During the 20th century, however, they were trapped and extirpated from the Olympic Peninsula.
In 1998, the fishers were listed as an endangered species, resulting in a statewide restoration effort. Beginning in 2008, 90 fishers were relocated from British Columbia and reintroduced into Olympic National Park.
To monitor the success of the effort, biologists are luring fishers to stations deep within the park and the peninsula’s forests using raw chicken and skunk scent as bait. Motion-sensor cameras capture photos of the animals while hair samples are snagged when a fisher crawls into a tunnel-like box to eat the chicken.
“The hair snags provide genetic information and help show whether fishers are breeding, while the photographs provide additional information about the population,” said Kim Sager-Fradkin, Lower Elwha Klallam’s wildlife biologist.
The stations are set up for six weeks at a time and checked every two weeks before they are taken down and moved to another spot.
“We have gotten pictures of fishers at four different stations, and are awaiting the results of the DNA analysis to determine if the fishers detected are one of the original 90, or their offspring,” said Patti Happe, the national park’s wildlife biologist.