Fishers, a member of the weasel family, prey not on fish but largely small mammals and vegetation.
Photo: PA Game Commission
It’s a problem some states are having. Their fishers are, if not disappearing, not exactly booming either.
In fact, said Matt Lovallo, game mammals section supervisor for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, many northern states are struggling to maintain populations. They’re seeing harvest declines recently, too.
That’s not the case at all in Pennsylvania or states further south, however, he said.
Pennsylvania, for example, offered its first fisher trapping season in 2010. A total of 2,886 trappers took 152 animals, or 5.3 per 100 permits issued.
In 2016 the state had 6,789 trappers. They took 422 animals, or 6.2 per 100 permits.
That marked the fifth straight year where harvests per 100 permits ranged between 6.1 and 6.7 animals. Those are what Lovallo termed “incredibly consistent results.”
“This is encouraging. It would indicate we’re having very little impact on the statewide fisher population with our current levels of harvest,” Lovallo said.
If anything, fisher populations seem to be expanding not only numerically, but geographically, he said. The animals are growing fastest in the western half of the state, and most specifically in the northwest region, he said.
Not surprisingly, then, wildlife management unit 1B in the extreme northwestern corner of the state produced the highest fisher harvest last year. It gave up 69 animals.
Unit 2D, which surrounds Armstrong County, was the next hottest spot. It produced 64 animals.
Rounding out the top five were units 2C, around Somerset, and 48, 4E, in the east central region, with 38 each. UNit 2F in the northwest and 4D in the central gave up 34 each.
Some additional units could see fisher trapping seasons soon.
This fall will feature the same season structure as last. But Lovallo said trapping could expand to units 2A in the extreme southwest corner of the state, and to and 4A and 4B in the southcentral, sooner rather than later. That’s based on growing populations.
“I would expect that at some point in the near future we can talk about expanding harvest opportunities into those units as well,” he said.