Day 239 | Friday, 13 November 2020
From the Church Mouse
I’ve been thinking lately about being prepared. Last Wednesday, when we gathered for prayer at noon, we were talking about the black cat that people have seen and that has shown up on our stealth camera footage. It occurred to me: what if it was a Fisher Cat?
Now if you run into a Fisher Cat, the operative word is RUN! Let me introduce you to this amazing beast. It’s technically correct to call it a Fisher, since it is in no way related to the domestic cat. In fact, the domestic cat is on its menu. The fisher (Pekania pennanti) is a small, carnivorous mammal native to North America. It is a member of the mustelid family (commonly referred to as the weasel family), and is in the monospecific genus Pekania. The fisher is closely related to, but larger than, the American marten (Martes americana). The fisher is a forest-dwelling creature whose range covers much of the boreal forest in Canada to the northern United States. Names derived from aboriginal languages include pekan, pequam, wejack, and woolang. It is sometimes misleadingly referred to as a fisher cat, although it is not a cat.
Male and female fishers look similar. Adult males are 35–47 inches long and weigh 8–13 lbs. Adult females are 30–37 inches long and weigh 4–6 lbs. The fur of the fisher varies seasonally, being denser and glossier in the winter. During the summer, the color becomes more mottled, as the fur goes through a moulting cycle. The fisher prefers to hunt in full forest. Although an agile climber, it spends most of its time on the forest floor, where it prefers to forage around fallen trees. An omnivore, the fisher feeds on a wide variety of small animals and occasionally on fruits and mushrooms. It prefers the snowshoe hare and is one of the few animals able to prey successfully on porcupines. Despite its common name, it rarely eats fish.
Fishers have few predators besides humans. They have been trapped since the 18th century for their fur. Their pelts were in such demand that they were killed off from several parts of the United States in the early part of the 20th century. Conservation and protection measures have allowed the species to rebound, but their current range is still reduced from its historic limits. In the 1920s, when pelt prices were high, some fur farmers attempted to raise fishers. However, their unusual delayed reproduction made breeding difficult. When pelt prices fell in the late 1940s, most fisher farming ended. While fishers usually avoid human contact, encroachments into forest habitats have resulted in some conflicts.
Recent studies, as well as anecdotal evidence, show that fishers have begun making inroads into suburban backyards, farmland, and peri-urban areas in several US states and eastern Canada, as far south as most of northern Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Minnesota and Iowa and even northwestern New Jersey. Having virtually disappeared after the construction of the Cape Cod Canal in the early 1900s, some reports have shown that populations have become re-established on Cape Cod, although the populations are likely smaller than the populations in the western part of New England.
I’m including pictures of the Fisher, so you can be on the look-out.
Check out those teeth! Oh, did I mention that they have retractable claws?