By Rachel La Corte
A predator that disappeared from Washington state two decades ago is in the midst of a comeback, and wildlife officials are looking to give the cat-sized carnivore known as the fisher some new help.
Wildlife officials reintroduced 90 fishers to the Olympic Peninsula a few years ago, and are now preparing a plan to reintroduce more of the weasel-like animals that hunt porcupines, beavers and hare to Mount Rainier and North Cascades national parks as early as 2015.
"Being able to restore this species is an exciting opportunity," said Elly Boerke, an environmental protection specialist for the National Park Service.
The initial plan is to introduce 40 fishers a year, with each park receiving a total of 80 animals.
First, though, the national parks, working with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, is seeking public comment through the end of September. Then, Boerke said, they'll assess any environmental impacts or other concerns, with a final decision on whether to move forward with the restoration likely to be made sometime next spring.
Fishers, which feed on small mammals, including snowshoe hares, mountain beavers and porcupines, are found only in North America, in low-to-mid elevation canopy forests. Fishers were once highly sought for their fur, and in 1934, Washington state prohibited trapping of the animals after their numbers decreased. By the mid-1900s, the fishers range had shrunk by 43 percent due to trapping, logging and development, according to wildlife officials. By the mid-90s, they were gone from the region.
The state listed the species as endangered in 1998, and in 2004, the fisher was listed as a candidate for protection under the Endangered Species Act. More....