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12 Facts About Fishers

They aren't cats, and they don't eat fish. Here are more surprising facts about one of the valley's most elusive species.

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Our trail camera at Shaupeneak Ridge recently captured a rare photo of a fisher. It’s one of the valley’s lesser-known mammals, and what you think you know about it might be wrong. To get you up to speed, here are a dozen facts about this fascinating but elusive creature known for its luxuriant fur and odd eating habits.

Possible male fisher at Shaupeneak Ridge (Photo: Scenic Hudson Trail Camera)

1. Despite their name, fishers rarely eat fish. It’s one of the few things not on their diet, which consists of fruit, reptiles and amphibians, birds and bird eggs, mushrooms, squirrels and other mammals (see #11 below) — and occasionally each other. 

2. Though often referred to as “fisher cats,” they’re not felines but members of the weasel family.

3. Fishers are “sexually dimorphic,” meaning there’s a big difference in the size of males and females. Adult males weigh 8-16 lbs. and measure about 3 ft. in length, while females weigh 4-6 lbs. and are approximately 2 ft. long. 

4. Their name may derive from “fiche,” the French word for the European polecat, which fishers resemble. Early trappers in North America may have confused the two.  

5. Native only to this continent, fishers live primarily in forests in Canada and the northern U.S. One was spotted in the Bronx in 2014.

6. From the 18th century to the 1930s, fishers were highly prized for their long, soft fur, eventually causing steep declines in their populations and bans on trapping. With their numbers now on the rebound, trapping is again permitted in N.Y. and other states.

Fisher (Photo: USFWS Pacific Southwest Region on Flickr (CC BY 2.0))

7. While fishers spend most of their time on the ground, they do occasionally climb trees. Thanks to ankle joints in their hind paws that can rotate almost 180°, they’re one of the few mammals capable of climbing head-first down trunks.  

8. Fishers are active year-round, but you’ll have to stay out late or wake up early to spot one, since they hunt primarily during the night and at dawn. When not searching for prey, they reside in temporary dens — hollow logs, stumps, brush piles, abandoned beaver lodges and openings in snowbanks.

9. Fishers are solitary creatures, getting together only to mate. 

10. Females produce 1 litter each year consisting of 1-4 kits that are born helpless and blind. They depend on their mother for support until they reach 5 months of age, when they can start hunting on their own.

11. Fishers are one of the few animals that eat porcupines. They circle their prickly prey until it’s exhausted, then repeatedly snap at its face with their sharp teeth until it dies. Once the porcupine succumbs, fishers turn it upside down and feast on its unprotected belly. Aggressive hunters, fishers also have been known to kill lynx, which are about twice their size.

12. Reports to the contrary, fishers don’t emit piercing screams. The blood-curdling cries of foxes are often misattributed to them. Usually silent — the better to track down their next meal — fishers do sometimes let out a short screech. Listen to a baby fisher cat’s (kind of adorable) sounds below.

More in this series

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Shrews aren’t just terms out of Shakespeare. In fact, Shakespeare is brand-new compared to actual shrews, animals that have been...
Next to gray squirrels, their rodent cousins, Eastern chipmunks are probably the most frequently spotted mammal in parks and backyards...

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Our mission is to immerse you in the storied history, fresh happenings, and coming solutions for making the Hudson Valley greener and more livable long-term.

Viewfinder is published by Scenic Hudson, the celebrated nonprofit credited with launching the modern grassroots environmental movement in 1963. With over 25,000 passionate supporters, Scenic Hudson’s mission is to sustain and enhance the Hudson Valley’s inspirational beauty and health for generations to come. Viewfinder supports that mission, because the better people understand what makes this place special, the more they will invest in protecting it. 

Keep up with the latest stories by subscribing to Scenic Hudson’s monthly digital newsletter, and connect with us on social via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Threads.

Lynn Freehill-Maye
Managing Editor
editorial@scenichudson.org 

Riley Johndonnell
Director Creative Strategies & Communications
rjohndonnell@scenichudson.org

Lynn Freehill-Maye
Managing Editor
editorial@scenichudson.org 

Riley Johndonnell
Director Creative Strategies & Communications
rjohndonnell@scenichudson.org

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We’re always looking for ideas around our main topic areas of Climate Solutions, Land + Air + Water, Plants + Animals, History + Culture, Outdoors, and Community.
  • Journalists and writers who have deep familiarity with New York and the Hudson Valley, we’d love to have you contribute! Please do introduce yourself by email, sharing writing samples and any relevant pitches you may have.
  • Photographers and videographers, we’d love to hear from you and see what you do. Please send along a portfolio with images or footage that showcases your best and/or most relevant work, with an emphasis on anything captured outdoors. 
  • Illustrators, we commission artwork on the regular. Drop us a note with some of the beauty you’ve created.
  • Media Partners & Social Media Influencers, we welcome opportunities to team up on series and campaigns. Reach out with any background about yourselves and your ideas.
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  • We love to collaborate with media outlets, especially on episodic series (like these) of interest to our shared audiences. Past collaborations have included radio interviews, panel discussions and other events, original artwork, and e-blasts, all furthering the campaign’s excitement and reach. 
  • We also love to partner with other organizations whose missions align with Scenic Hudson’s. Feel free to reach out with some background on your group and its work.
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