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More fishers released in North Cascades

February 10, 2019
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A fisher runs Wednesday from a crate into its new home in the North Cascades. Twenty-four fishers have been brought to the North Cascades from Alberta, Canada, in an effort to restore the species in the state.

Another six fishers scurried into the forest Wednesday near the base of the North Cascades east of Darrington after being released from wooden crates.

The release brings the total number of fishers — carnivores related to weasels — released into the North Cascades region to 24 since the first group bounded into the woods near Newhalem on Dec. 5.

Fourteen females and 10 males are now settling into area forests. The fishers were brought from Alberta, Canada, with help from the Calgary Zoo and were surgically implanted with radio transmitters to keep wildlife biologists apprised of their whereabouts.

“It’s too early to say how they’re doing, but we know they are out there and moving around and finding the spots that they like,” North Cascades National Park Service Complex biologist Jason Ransom said of those released prior to Wednesday. “They’re spreading out a fair bit.”

Ransom has been closely involved in efforts to restore fishers to the state’s forests for several years. The species disappeared from the state in the mid-1900s after being hunted for their furs and losing habitat to logging and development, according to state and federal agencies.

The first release of fishers brought to the state from Canada was in 2008. Dozens of fishers have since been moved from Canada to Washington’s Olympic and Cascade mountains.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has been court-ordered to reopen a proposal to list the Pacific fisher historically found in West Coast forests as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Ransom said those working on recovering the species in Washington didn’t support the proposed listing when it was on the table in 2014 and remain opposed to it now.

Since 2002, the National Park Service, state Department of Fish & Wildlife, nonprofit Conservation Northwest and other partners have been working on restoration, according to a Conservation Northwest news release.

While Conservation Northwest supports listing the fisher in California and Oregon, the organization doesn’t want to see the ongoing effort in Washington state interrupted.

“We believe fishers deserve federal protections throughout much of their West Coast range in Oregon and California, but recovery efforts in Washington state are progressing well with fishers now established in much of their historic range in the Cascade Mountains and Olympic Peninsula,” Science and Conservation Director Dave Werntz said in the release.

The plan is to release about 80 fishers total into the North Cascades through 2020.

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