| Jan 17, 2008

Outdoors - January 17, 2008

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Outdoors in the LandO'Lakes - January 17, 2008 The Elusive Fisher Outdoors in the Land O Lakes byLorraine Julien There is a certain mystique about an animal called the “fisher”. Perhaps it is because it is seldom seen or perhaps it is because it is such an effective hunter. Its ability to kill porcupines in relative ease, even though they have the built-in armour of their quills, probably adds to its notoriety.

The fisher is a member of the Mustelidae family, which is made up of the most diverse species of all the carnivores. It includes badgers and otters, minks and skunks, weasels and fishers. All have developed the strong, sharp teeth typical of carnivores. Dependent upon variable and uncertain food resources, they pursue what they need with intelligence and in constantly changing ways. Their claws are not retractile.

First of all, the fisher does not fish for a living. Instead, this close relative of the marten is known for its speed through the treetops. For instance, the marten can catch a squirrel but the fisher can catch a marten!

A fisher does sometimes catch and eat a marten but, more often, it feeds on hares, small rodents, birds, carrion and fruit. Personally, I am well aware of its hunting prowess and am very careful to ensure my cat is safely in the house before dark each night.

With a unique degree of success, the fisher makes a food resource of the well-armed and populous porcupine. For a long time it was thought the fisher’s technique involved upending the lumbering rodent and attacking the flip side, which lacks quills. Not so, studies show. The porcupine’s defense works best against attack from above and behind. The fisher’s low profile puts it at the right level for a frontal attack, and it uses teeth and claws to inflict wounds on the porcupine’s face and neck before tearing into its belly.

At home in the wilderness, the fisher finds a hollow tree or log to make a good home for its slim body (up to 25 inches long, excluding the tail). The one to five young are born in March or April and become independent by fall.

A female fisher mates a week or so after bearing young, then undergoes a gestation period of up to 358 days. Of this, ten months pass before the embryo becomes implanted; its actual development takes about two months. This phenomenon also occurs with a few other mammals including the Black Bear. In a sense, the female spends nearly all her adult life in a state of pregnancy.

I didn’t see any unusual birds at the feeders this past week, nor did I see any animals other than the otters still playing on the ice and the red squirrels stealing food from the feeders. If you were lucky enough to spot anything interesting, please let me know and I can mention it in the next column. My email address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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