The Fisher or “fisher cat" as it is sometimes referred, is not a member of the feline family at all, in fact, it is the largest member of the weasel family. Their physical appearance is similar to that of a weasel, long and slender with short legs and bushy tail. Males can weigh up to 16 pounds and females usually top the scales at a mere 6 pounds. Males grow to be approximately 3 feet long from head to tail while females tend to grow to an estimated 2 feet long. The tail of both sexes account for approximately 1/3 of the animals' length.
Fishers were hunted to a point of total elimination in Massachusetts by the end of the 19th century. Over the past few decades, Fishers have been slowly making a comeback and can now be found in most parts of the state.
Fishers breed from February to March, their fertilized eggs remain dormant for up to 11 months before implanting on the uterine wall. Within 1-2 months of that, an average litter of 3 kits are born. This results in an average 1 year gestation period. The kits are raised by the female until they are approximately 5 months old at which time they disperse in search of their own territory.
Although active year-round, it is unlikely that you will have the chance to see a fisher, even if for only a split second. They are timid and elusive and will generally try to avoid conflicts with humans.
Fishers have erroneously earned a reputation for being vicious. They are curious and playful yet shy and usually never attack an animal larger than a rabbit. Their main diet consists of mice, voles, squirrels, fruits and berries and the occasional carrion. They are also one of the few predators that hunt porcupine. Pet owners should not allow their cats or small dogs to be outdoors unsupervised as they too can been seen as a meal. Make sure you are not inadvertently attracting fishers by leaving out open trash containers, feeding pets outside, or by leaving spilled bird seed on the ground, which can attract small rodents that then can attract fishers. If a fisher does come into your yard, using scare tactics is your best option. Loud noises such as clapping your hands or yelling at it is usually enough to drive it away. Gently spraying the animal with a garden hose will also send it on its way.
If you do experience fishers in your neighborhood, it’s a good idea to discuss these solutions with your neighbor as well.
PUBLIC HEALTH CONCERNS
As with all mammals, fishers can contract rabies.
MSPCA FISHER FACT SHEET pdf