Spotted: The Elusive Pacific Fisher at Red Hill

Pacific fisher
Pacific fisher at the League’s Red Hill property in Sequoia National Forest. Photo: Joe Medley with Colibri Ecological Consulting

At least one Pacific fisher has been spotted on a camera trap at our property at Red Hill! These nocturnal critters are mid-sized carnivores in the weasel family. Females have home ranges up to 10 square miles, and males have even larger home ranges since they mate with multiple females. They are excellent tree climbers, and have a varied diet (e.g., small mammals, birds, lizards).

Unfortunately, fisher populations have declined as a result of historical fur trapping and habitat loss. Those that live in the Southern Sierra Nevada are listed as threatened under the California Endangered Species Act. In November 2019, Pacific fisher in southern Oregon and all of California was proposed for listing as threatened under the Federal Endangered Species Act.

Pacific fisher
Pacific fisher doing one of the things it does best—tree climbing. Photo: Joe Medley with Colibri Ecological Consulting

Forest management in the fisher’s habitat in the Sierra Nevada can be complex because they really love areas with dense tree cover—but this type of forest can also lead to extensive high-severity fires. Forest managers used to be concerned that any forest treatments that reduce the number of trees, and therefore the amount of tree cover, would be detrimental to the Pacific fisher. However, more recently scientists and managers have realized that the loss of these forests to high-severity fire is a larger threat. This has shifted the focus from protecting all dense forest habitat to creating a patchwork quilt of dense forest patches in a matrix of more open forests.

To strike a balance at Red Hill, Save the Redwoods League will be doing some fuel-reduction work, but we are developing restoration plans with the fisher in mind. For example, we will conduct restoration outside breeding season and protect the types of trees fishers tend to make their dens in—generally larger trees with large cavities. We’ll check back after our treatments are complete to see if the fisher is still using the site.

Enjoy these stills, which give a rare glimpse of the Pacific fisher in its native habitat—along with a special cameo by a couple of California black bears! Nature is awesome.

Black Bears
A pair of California black bears showed up 10 days after the Pacific fisher. Photo: Joe Medley with Colibri Ecological Consulting

About the author

Kristen joined the League’s staff in 2018 as a Senior Scientist and now serves as Director of Science. She has nearly 20 years of experience in forest and fire management, as well as fire ecology research.

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