Almanack Contributor Bill Rhodes

Bill Rhodes

Bill Rhodes is a retired life sciences and healthcare industry executive. A freelance writer and avid naturalist, he also volunteers time with the NY State Museum's entomology collections and Cornell University, his alma mater.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

The fisher cat: Doesn’t fish, isn’t a cat

three sisters preserve fisherWhat’s in a name?  In the case of the Fisher Cat, Pekania pennanti, a low-slung, cat-sized fur-bearing omnivore found throughout the dense pine forests of Northern New York, apparently not much.

The Fisher Cat is not a cat, but rather a member of the weasel family, and they do not fish, although there are records of them eating dead fish found on the side of ponds or lakes.

How did they come by the name, then?

‘Fisher’ is thought to be derived from early European settlers likening the animal to the European polecat, called a ‘fitche’.  As for ‘cat’, the fisher is about the size of a large domestic cat, with a dark brown to black, close-cropped glossy fur coat and a long bushy tail.  It will hold its tail upright when it runs, perhaps making it resemble a cat to some.  Although they don’t climb trees often, they can climb quite well, using their sharp, retractable claws, which are also similar to a cat’s.

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