Fishers are hard to find. The elusive forest
carnivores dwell inside trees and often hunt at night. Unfortunately, spotting
this cute cousin of the weasel may become even tougher in western states.
A WCS study has found that the number of
fishers in California’s Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation is shrinking quickly.
Between 1998 and 2005, the population declined by 73 percent. The researchers
suspect a combination of disease, habitat destruction, and less prey is to
blame. Increased predation from bobcats might also factor into the fishers’
Counting these carnivores isn’t easy.
Inaccurate methods, the authors say, could lead to misguided land management
decisions regarding the species’ future.
For the study, the
conservationists scaled tall trees to temporarily capture fishers so that they
could attach identification tags to their ears. They then analyzed photographs of
the animals taken at remote camera stations, in order to determine how many of
them are out there.
“It is critical to understand the status of a
population when making decisions about species conservation,” said Sean
Matthews, WCS Conservation Biologist. “Our study further demonstrates the
importance in monitoring populations of imperiled species and the limitations
of some methods in detecting large changes in population size.”
To uncover the threats to fishers and the conservation
solutions that can help them recover, the researchers call for more intensive
monitoring of the animals and their ecosystems over longer periods of time.
Read more about the study in the press release.