The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced the release of a fisher “management strategy” that reduces the trapping season in the northern part of the state by 16 days and establishes a new six-day season in the central and western parts of the state.
The fisher plan is expected to guide the agency’s approach to the species for the next 10 years. The plan attempts to advance two of DEC’s stated goals: to maintain or grow fisher populations where suitable habitat exists and to provide trapping opportunities.
Fishers, a member of the weasel family, can weigh up to about 13 pounds. Their diets range from small and medium-sized mammals and birds to acorns, apples and berries. They are also one of the few known predators of porcupines, having been known to consume the entire animal, leaving nothing but a quilled hide and a few bones.
Historically, their numbers experienced a severe decline during the late 1800s and early 1900s due to over-trapping and loss of forested habitat. DEC established a fisher trapping season in the 1950s in northern New York and in the 1980s in southeastern New York.
According to DEC, over the past 20 years fisher populations have expanded into central and western New York.
The plan defines specific objectives and strategies for each of the following fisher management zones: Northern; Southeastern; and Central/Western New York. New York City and Long Island are excluded as DEC argues that fisher populations have historically not existed there.
The plan proposes the following adjustment to current fisher trapping regulations to begin in the fall of 2016:
- Reduce the fisher trapping season from 46 days to 30 days in select Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) in northern New York, with a season start date of November 1 to address population declines in this area;
- Establish a limited six-day open trapping season in selected WMUs in central/western New York to provide new opportunities for sustainable hunting as populations have expanded.
The proposed changes to trapping regulations will remain in effect for three years.
The management plan, and an Assessment of Public Comment is available on the DEC website. Proposed regulations to implement the plan are expected to be released soon for public comment.
Photos: Above, a fisher in its winter coat (forest by Forest Wander); and below, a fisher climbing a tree at night (photo by NYSED).