The Fisher is a member of the weasel family and it got its name from the European Poul Cat that the French called Fitch (pronounced Fiche). This developed into the name Fisher. The males, slightly larger than the females usually weigh about 15 lbs while the females who tend to be a bit smaller, are in the range of approximately 9 lbs. They are dark brown ranging to almost black in color. Twenty years ago our area did not have any Fishers, since Algonquin Park was the furthest south that they ventured. Their range of locations had been greatly diminished, especially in Southeastern Ontario, due to logging, overharvesting for fur and predator control.
Since 1999 they have begun to recover their numbers and their range of locations. The Fishers in our area have mainly migrated from the Adirondaks, coming across the St. Lawrence River. Fisher numbers have increased in Southeastern Ontario since the 1950’s, because the forested area has increased, mainly due to the reduction in farming. Many of the farms were subdivided, sold off, and allowed to go back to natural forestation.
This has attracted back the Fishers as they prefer densely forested areas with a wide variety of both deciduous and coniferous trees with big trees which often contain their dens. Southeastern Ontario is also attractive to Fishers because it has a good supply of diverse food sources. Fishers are solitary animals and live alone except that the females who stay with their kits for about 6 months, spring until fall. Once they are two years old, females mate and have their young in the spring months, usually producing from 2-4 kits per year. This is a good time for this process as food is plentiful.
Fishers are very territorial and males will fight with males and females will fight with other females in their territory. Males and females don’t fight even if their areas overlap, and female territories are often smaller and inside male territories. They are considered generalist predators. The mainstay of their diet is rabbit and porcupine. However, they are scavengers and will eat deer carcasses, and road kill as well as turkeys, birds, raccoons, snakes, fruit and berries. The chances that they will attack your cat or small dog are not high, but letting your pets roam the woods at night is generally not advisable in our woods. That said, these beautiful creatures are not nearly as dangerous as their almost mythical name implies.