Fishers are making a comeback

Fishers have been seen in Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties for the past couple years.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conser-vation has been keeping an eye on these little critters, surveying them across the Southern Tier.

“We are aware they are in Chautauqua County,” Wildlife Biologist Ken Baginski said. “They have actually increased in population in recent years along the Southern Tier.”

The mammal is commonly seen in heavily wooded areas, feeds on small animals like squirrels and bunnies, and weighs anywhere from five to 15 pounds.

“We have baited sights with cameras,” Baginski said. “There has been 43 sightings across Chautauqua County, several in Westfield and even Fredonia.”

Fishers are not harmful to humans.

“If people see them it is a great opportunity to snap a picture,” Baginski said. “They are shy animals. They will avoid people.”

In rare cases, fishers will attack chickens.

The DEC is working on snagging their DNA using brushes posted in populated areas to catch their fur.

“We want to use this to estimate how abundant they are in the area,” Baginski said.

A fisher management plan is being established to decide what to do with these small creatures. Fisher cats usually make their homes in the Adirondacks and Catskills. The ones migrating to this area have come from Pennsylvania.

“We are trying to get an idea of what is going on,” Baginski said. “If they are making a comeback, this is a good sign. It means we have good environmental conditions for these animals.”

Why they have chosen this area to expand to is a big question at the DEC.

“For now people won’t see them unless they are really quiet,” Baginski said. “Deer hunters have seen them deep in the woods, and sometimes people see them by the road, but don’t know what they are.”

Fishers are a member of the weasel family with sharp pointy teeth, but according to Baginski they don’t bite people.

“You have to treat them like you would any wild animal,” he said.

Comments on this story may be sent to jwillis@observertoday.com