Thursday, March 12, 2020

Some Declines: Ongoing Adirondack Fisher Research

Fisher provided by DECHarvest data suggests a decline in fisher populations in certain wildlife management units within the Adirondack Park.

To get a better idea of what could be driving these apparent declines, DEC initiated a study on fisher demographic rates in 2019.

DEC biologists hope to get an idea of reproductive rates and survival of fisher in the central Adirondacks and compare them to demographic rates from the more robust population in the Tug Hill area. DEC wildlife biologists have captured over 30 fisher this winter, including seven females that have been outfitted with GPS collars.

Blood tests done by Cornell University suggest that several of these females are pregnant. In the spring, DEC biologists will attempt to successfully track these females to dens. By monitoring these dens using game cameras, DEC can get a better idea of the number of kits each female has and monitor their survival and movements throughout the year.

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84 Responses

  1. CXharlie S says:

    Maybe the DEC should require a bag limit of 0 just to see what happens.

  2. Charlie S says:

    Maybe the DEC should require a bag limit of 0 just to see what happens.

  3. Doug Kroeger says:

    Are Fisher harvests from fur trappers reported? I realize there are many variables that impact the fur trapping numbers, but it would be interesting to see.

    • Boreas says:


      I believe that trapping harvest data is where DEC has been getting most of their information. Last I knew, they couldn’t be hunted, and a special permit is required to trap them.

  4. Patrick says:

    Fisher trapping seasons in NY.

  5. suzanne says:

    Why is such trapping allowed? Who needs to trap endangered animals for a living? This isn’t Siberia or Alaska.

    • Doug Kroeger says:

      I don’t believe fishers are endangered. In general, species benefit from properly managed hunting and trapping.

      • Suzanne says:

        You don’t believe fishers are endangered? You’re right — they are listed as “threatened,” but not endangered,YET. (Look it up — Google is your friend.) As for “properly managed hunting and trapping,” it’s one thing to manage deer, definitely over populated, but do fishers need the benefit of proper management?

        • Doug Kroeger says:

          If it is properly managed, it doesn’t harm the species. In fact, spending, or a portion of it, generated from hunting, fishing, trapping usually makes its way back to the species directly or indirectly.

          • AG says:

            Actually that is not true… Humans aren’t “natural predators”… Humans select with their eye what to shoot… Or indiscriminately kill by traps. Natural predators on the other hand purposely target the weaker of prey species – or the sick. That is what keeps prey species strong… Natural predators ensure the best gene pool of the prey is passed on.

            • David Smith says:

              Humans by definition are natural predators! What sets humans apart from other predators, among other things is the use of the human brain. Granted Boreas and the likes would be at a huge disavantage here but for the rest of us what an advantage. The ability to develop tools to bring down game and the ability to think out effective ambush points to use these tool to our advantage are big game changers!

              • suzanne says:

                “Tools to bring down game” include leg hold traps, which are available on Amazon and Ebay. If this is an advantage, and a big “game changer” to have an animal stuck in a trap to either freeze to death or gnaw its leg off in an attempt to get away, this is certainly a big improvement on the Cro-Magnons’ pointed spears, wouldn’t you say? I am not a “moonbat” as was suggested–I, too, hunt. My father, as a ten-year-old in the 20’s had a trap line, because our family were in financial straits and he wanted to help with a little money .(We still have his taxidermined Great Horned Owl on our mantlepiece.) What I find objectionable is the idea that wildlife, including fishers, are a commodity to be exploited.

                • David Smith says:

                  Suzanne are you familiar the the migratory bird treaty act of 1916?? (If not im sure ur about to real soon!) Depending on when Ole Pop’s decided it would be a great idea to kill the owl, then stuff it and place it on the mantle as a testament to his great hunting skill, you all could be in big legal trouble! Either way you just possessing the thing is illegal and a federal offense with out proper permits! Might wanna get in touch with the authorities and get that one squared away!

                  • TB says:

                    Oh Boy! Yes Suzanne David is right! Although the act was enacted in 1916 the correct title is the Migratory bird treaty of 1918 (MBTA). The killing of a species covered under the MBTA , which the Great Horned Owl is, is commiting a Felony, punishable by a $10,000 fine and 5 years in prison. Possession of even a feather from this Owl is also a Felony according to the MBTA. There are exceptions written in pertaining to Native American Indians Possessing such feathers.

                    • Suzanne says:

                      Actually, we no longer have the owl–our camp was broken into and the owl stolen about twenty-five years ago. My father at age ten I am sure did not realise that trapping the owl was a felony.

                    • David Smith says:

                      LMAO! Somehow I feel that Owl mysteriously disappeared closer to 25 minutes ago than 25 years ago!

                • William G Ott says:

                  I was going down river a few years ago and smelled something that might have come from my refrigerator. My smeller is not great, but it got me to a dead beaver in a leg trap. I did not like this, it has stayed with me.
                  Several years later I read a log entry by a beaver trapper at a shelter on the same river. During the beaver trapping season, he had 50 traps set that he checked daily. For the two weeks, he got two animals. I think one was a beaver, and the other a muskrat which was eaten by a fisher. If he reads this log, I wish he would respond.
                  I do not judge. Just because I do not like something does not make it wrong. I am just glad I was not that beaver dying a slow miserable death in that trap.
                  And Suzanne, since I am replying to your reply, I certainly hope you never bark at a fisher.

        • Dana says:

          I agree. Prey populations need to be “managed” more than predator populations. We wouldn’t need to “manage” prey species if there was a proper balance of predators. Yet, we “manage” forests to produce more deer, not fewer. “Management” is for human predators and our prey is whatever we decide we want to “harvest”. Doubt that will ever change.

          • Doug says:

            Dana – Very coherent comment. I wonder if wildlife were proper abundance (carrying capacity) if the environment wouldn’t benefit from more use of fur. I have to believe that a lot of synthetic manufacturing creates greenhouse gasses etc.

          • AG says:

            Correct… Natural predators are the best way to manage ungulates and other prey species. The system was well at work before humans had guns.

        • Tim-Brunswick says:

          “Google is your friend”…seriously if you’re relying upon Google for all your knowledge, I feel sorry for you!’
          Fisher are not endangered, threatened or otherwise anything but very much populating almost all areas of this state including the urban areas (downtown Albany)..Don’t believe me? then check it out with NYSDEC Wildlife Bureaus, who track these populations with the assistance of “Trappers”. If it weren’t for Trappers assisting with reintroduction of species in various States/locations ( i.e. Western New York otter reintroduction) then there would be no opportunity to see many of your wildlife species that have declined in recent history.

          People don’t need to “hike” for a living do they?, yet nobody whines about the thousands of vibram soles destroying the trails, plant life, etc. in the High Peaks. Suzanne you might do a little more research before bashing folks/activities you obviously knows very little about except through “Google”

      • David Smith says:

        You are exactly right Doug, Fisher are not an endangered species. You get these misinformed “moonbats” making ignorant comments and that helps nothing. Fisher are a near perfect hunting machine. Can live up to 10 years and have 2 or 3 kits per year. With no natural enemy Proper game management is needed to keep the animal in check or, they are capable of wiping out complete populations of ground nesting birds, small mammals ect. From an entire eco-system

        • Balian the Cat says:

          Left unchecked by Proper game managers, moonbats can run amok! Only an idiot would believe that nature could exist without us.

          • David Smith says:

            You just keep proving my point there Balian! Wow little anger showing there too! No sharp objects near by I hope!

        • Boreas says:

          “Proper game management is needed to keep the animal in check or, they are capable of wiping out complete populations of ground nesting birds, small mammals ect. From an entire eco-system”

          I would like to know where you get your information. It certainly isn’t based on science or common sense. How did Nature ever get by without humans?? No wonder dinosaurs went extinct! We weren’t there to kill them.

          • David Smith says:

            Boreas what the hell would you know about common sense? You suggesting we all fly up to Mars and give the planet back to the animals? You moonbats crack me up! LOL!

            • Boreas says:

              Quite the comedian, but you still know no science.

            • Jeepqueen says:

              Boreas has an answer for everything….don’t waste your time with that one! Your beliefs are valid!

              • TB says:

                I got to agree with you on that one jeepqueen! What I can’t figure out is why DEC is spending all that money on a study when all the got to do is ask Boreas?

                • David Smith says:

                  Good one TB! Mr. Scientific evidence offers up 1 visual sighting from his kitchen window and a trail cam pix from his back yard and all of a sudden he’s a wildlife biologist specializing in the Fisher!

                  • Boreas says:

                    Well, no. But I do have a BS Biology degree specializing in ornithology (study of birds in case you didn’t know). And you??

          • David Smith says:

            Hey Boreas, Cuomo just banned any gatherings with greater than 500 people in attendance. Lucky for you! You can still attend that Bernie Sanders rally! LOL

        • AG says:

          Sorry – but that is not correct. There is no such thing as a perfect hunting machine. The most successful hunters by most estimations are African Wild Dogs. Their success rate is only 50%. Most predators fail a majority of the time. If they didn’t they eat too much of the prey species. When that happens – their own offspring die of starvation… Then the cycle starts all over. There are many places on the planet where humans don’t intervene and that is exactly how the predator/prey populations work.

  6. Balian the Cat says:

    I read today that the State of Florida has removed language from it’s code of laws regarding the telegraph. Hopefully, as we move forward in time, practices that, while once necessary, no longer serve a legitimate purpose can be curtailed. I support the rights of subsistence, but trapping animals for cigarette money should go the way of the pony express.

  7. David Smith says:

    Fisher fur prices are way down, many trappers have targeted the coyote recently and ignored the fisher because the price for the coyote is up nicely, due to the trim trade. That being said, so if the data is based solely on fur harvest reports the data could be a bit tainted at best!
    PS. Balian the cat, you’re an idiot!

    • Balian the Cat says:

      Lol…Thanks David. Your assessment of me and news of the trim trade is sure to alter my entire world view.

      • Tim-Brunsick says:

        Glad to hear that Balian, “cuz” David pretty much hit the nail on the head when it comes to your ill informed comments I’ve seen posted here too many times.

  8. David Smith says:

    Useing Balin the Cats logic, hey let’s do away with that old out dated Polio vaccine! Hell nobody gets polio anymore!

    • Balian the Cat says:

      That’s not even a crude parallel to my observation David, but keep flailing away. By the way, you might want to look into the worldwide statistics before you make any travel plans – polio is on the uptick in country’s run by narrow minded traditionalists.

    • Suzanne says:

      If you’ve ever been in Nepal or other countries in South Asia and seen the people crippled by polio, dragging their useless limbs around, you might want to rethink that.

      • William G Ott says:

        It is natural for us to not appreciate that for which we have not suffered. How many of us have even gone 3 days without food. Not me. Suzanne, in spite of a year in SE Asia, I have never seen what you described, though I remember locals going through our trash to salvage discarded (c4?) rations. I actually wanted to be glib in some way, as I usually am, but not here.

        • Suzanne says:

          I’ve gone three days without food, but it was a voluntary fast, and I didn’t starve! You don’t mention where you were in SE Asia. I spent four trekking seasons in Nepal, last in 1997, and did see many such people, mostly older. With the advent of vaccine and government efforts at prevention, polio has considerably decreased, although in remote regions where there is little access to doctors or any sort of health care, it still exists, along with goiter, which is easily preventable. Sanitation is rudimentary at best — there is a common belief that water washes everything away, so people situate their outhouses near (or sometimes directly on top) of a running stream, and so germs travel down to the next village where people do their laundry and get water.

          • William G Ott says:

            Nam, 68-69.

            • Suzanne says:

              Glad you came home alive. Several friends and brothers of my college roommates did not, and several others returned as drug-addled mental cases after the horrors they experienced. Another friend, a marine from the North Country, is still dealing with the effects of Agent Orange. Vietnam vets were never given the gratitude they deserved for their service. Hope you are well and enjoyed your weekend in the woods.

  9. Elmer Lipshitz says:

    How did this article spawn comments relating fisher numbers decline to trapping ?Fisher, like any other animal in the world, numbers fluctuate in a given area usually due to preferred food source availability. Such as central Adirondacks vs. Tug Hill. Harvest data could be skewed by the decline of trappers in these area’s as easily as any decline in numbers. Perhaps a more interesting take on fisher would be survival rates and their impact on food source species such as turkey, porcupine and small game in areas that the DEC introduced them to in the late 70’s and eighties that did not have fisher populations.

    • Doug Kroeger says:

      As I mentioned in my original post, I know there are a lot of variables that affect harvest data.

  10. Allen Lindsay says:

    Strange. Recent other observations are that fisher populations are growing over the rest of the State.

  11. Allen Lindsay says:

    Strange. Recent other comments are that fisher populations are growing over the State.

  12. Jim Racquet says:

    I can tell you why they are declining, Little to no food the small game they feed on don’t have the forest Habitat to reach large numbers any more.

  13. David Smith says:

    Um, balian yea it’s a perfect parallel to your narrow minded observation. And as far as your babbling bout travel plans and whatever? Don’t know what point your trying to make with that???. Anyways keep trying, you are making my original point for me! LOL

  14. Dan says:

    Just 2-3 years ago we had a very large population in Greenfield NY. Fisher tracks even outnumbered deer one year recently in the woods of our property. I had video of one eating strawberries in the yard. But this year, I don’t recall seeing a single print in the snow, and I walk the woods very regularly. That’s a population decline you expect in snowshoe hare, but I don’t know much about fisher population dynamics.

    • Boreas says:


      One thing to keep in mind is territory size. Hares occupy a tiny territory (easy to monitor) whereas fisher have the option to simply move elsewhere. What you may have actually been seeing is just the tracks of one or two fishers hunting a lot in your woods (possibly supporting a family), then simply bugging out as food became more scarce and the kids were off to college. Even though you saw a dramatic decrease in your woods, the population of the entire county may not have changed at all, or could have even increased!

      • David Smith says:

        Or maybe there was a large population of fisher in your area due to lack of proper game managment control and they decimated the hare and nesting ground bird population and moved on to reek destruction in a whole different location! You even ever seen a fisher in the wild there Boreas??

        • Boreas says:

          Absolutely – behind my house! Pix on my game cam if you don’t believe me. Fox, coyotes, and feral cats too. Yet still plenty of ovenbirds, turkey, and grouse, around my house. And you?

          I guess you aren’t aware fisher and “nesting ground birds ” evolved together. Ground-nesting birds and ALL predators as well. Any idea what that means? I’ll spell it out – it means they don’t need humans to control their populations – they have coexisted for millennia. Open a book sometime.

      • Dan L. says:

        Good point made.

        I should provide additional personal background info. It does seem to me I used to see them a lot more everywhere in the S. Adirondacks. Over the past 30 or so years, their numbers have definitely increased in the S. Adirondacks. 40-50 years ago I rarely saw their tracks. For the past few years, I’ve been out doing landscape photography a few times every winter, and this winter I’m doing it every couple weeks. I spend a lot of time around Saratoga County and also S. Hamilton Co. In those areas, I would swear the numbers of tracks are way down – based on my limited experience. Where recently you would see tracks on a regular basis, now you don’t see one set all winter. Anybody else notice it in S. ‘Dacks?

        • Boreas says:

          Dan L.,

          Thanks for the follow-up. As a matter of contrast, I live within 1/4 mile of Lake Champlain near Wickham Marsh. I have noticed an INCREASE in fisher sightings over the last 10 years. I won’t attribute that to any real population changes, but simply more sightings close to homes. We generally don’t get a lot of snow here to evaluate tracks. Fisher can certainly travel long distances with ease. Are they simply becoming less afraid of human habitation and are able to capitalize on feeders, carrion, compost/garbage, and prey that are found near humans? Are they simply migrating from areas of less prey to areas of more prey? Is it a simply seasonal movement from high elevation / heavy snow to low elevation as many birds show? I think that is what NYS wants to figure out with the GPS collars. I hope their findings are published when available.

          • David Smith says:

            Boreas perhaps you should open a book along with that pea size brain you got rolling around in your thick skull! Try looking up the alarming decline of ground nesting song birds in the U.S., along with the causes and effects. You, you offer a couple pix on a game camera behind your house as proof that everything is unicorns and butterflies out there in the wild! Plenty of turkeys and grouse! Compared to what! What a dope!

            • AG says:

              Ground nesting birds declines is different in different places. In some places it is because of feral cats. In some places because of raccoons. Birds are a prey species. Feral cats over abundance isn’t natural. In other places – the raccoon population is too high because it’s natural predators are removed.

              • Boreas says:


                I agree. Regardless of where they nest, migratory birds of almost all types are in serious decline. There is no single smoking gun – it probably has more to do with loss of habitat and decline (and possible toxicity) in insect populations than any one local predator, including fisher. The call to kill more NATURAL predators to “save” ground-nesting birds is simply self-serving with no basis in science.

            • Sula says:

              Is it really necessary to be so rude toward others who post on this discussion? Civil discouse seems to be a thing of the past. Sorry you choose to degrade the conversation.

              • Boreas says:


                If one is defending the indefensible, insults are all they have. Facts and civility aren’t in their toolbox. Ultimately, the tone of any discussion here is up to John.

  15. Jim T. says:

    A few years ago when I was doing a little trapping, I caught a female fisher in a coon trail set. The following year I had a porcupine living under my camp. It girdled two nice little sugar maple trees near by. I was disappointed because I have very few sugar maple trees on my property. I got to thinking, had I not caught the fisher, it may have saved those trees because fisher are the only animals that can kill porcupines. I will not intentionally trap them because I like having them around, but do not fault anyone that does as long as they do it legally.
    I picked up a road killed fisher (male) a couple years ago. To sell the skin, you need a pelt seal from NYSDEC. Since it was in February and outside of trapping season for fisher, the conservation officer told me to skin it out and freeze it. The next year’s fisher season, he issued me the pelt seal and I sold it. Cannot remember how much I got but was not very much. Another reason I leave them in the woods.

  16. RC Streb says:

    It’s too bad that politics and name calling got into so many of these comments.
    I like to read the comments that follow these articles because I often learn more about the subject at hand, but not so much this time.

    • Jack B says:

      RG, I agree. It’s too bad we have to sort through all the trash in order to read some informative observations in this comment section. We have a Fisher living under our hunting camp and he / she is a very welcome tenant for us. It sure keeps all the unwanted critters out and from doing damage. I sure hope it sticks around a while…..

      • Balian the Cat says:

        A lot of that is my fault, and I am conscious of it. I apologize for participating in the hijacking of this thread and will endeavor to be better in the future.

  17. Gerry Rising says:

    Very interesting discussion with many well-informed comments. I wonder if those who would like to see nature returned to what it was in 1491 would be willing to remove the house cats that we have imposed on North America and that are wreaking such violence on our songbird populations.

    • Sula says:

      House cats should be exactly that — house cats, kept indoors for the safety of birds as well as themselves.

  18. Doug says:

    There is a fine line. There are house cats and there are farm cats, each with a specific purpose.

    • Sula says:

      Very true. I work at a farm. Farm cats do their job at catching mice and rats, but they do kill chipmunks and birds also. When I used to bring my little Abyssinian up to the mountains, she was a dedicated hunter, and once she discovered “Shrewtown,” we would find a gift on our bed every morning. “Oh, breakfast — shrew and eggs,” said my husband, viewing the carnage. (Of course cats won’t eat shrews, but she loved catching them.) Once she even caught a bat and brought it to us as a special trophy. My two cats now will never be outside. I’ve had them since they were tiny feral kittens and they have no notion of the outdoors and would probably find it frightening.

  19. William G Ott says:

    It is natural for us to not appreciate that for which we have not suffered. How many of us have even gone 3 days without food. Not me. Suzanne, in spite of a year in SE Asia, I have never seen what you described, though I remember locals going through our trash to salvage discarded (c4?) rations. I actually wanted to be glib in some way, as I usually am, but not here.

    • William G Ott says:

      I am heading to the woods tomorrow am before the borders are closed, Canada just got it.

  20. Tina Dowlearn says:

    Out walking today with my dog and seen a dead fisher on the side of the road near a stream after looking closer I seen a black rubber collar on it. When I came home I researched a bit and seen your study, so that’s why I’m contacting you. Found today on Synder Road in Lacona, NY. I did take a picture but unable to put here.

    • Boreas says:


      Not sure what the black rubber collar is. It doesn’t sound like a tracking collar unless it has a tag or transmitter. I would suggest contacting the nearest DEC office near you for further instruction.