Tuesday, April 13, 2010
While Fishing For Belted Fisher, I Spied a Fisher Cat!
Fisher nearly jumped on me. It is very rare to see one of these elusive creatures. They are solitary and secretive and generally nocturnal. I had been standing stalk still (get it? I was stalking.) using my open car door for cover. I had stood still so long that I was uncomfortable. I was also hot, but did not dare move to remove my jacket. I had been watching the Belted Kingfisher sitting on a branch and once in a while slamming into the water to take little fish. Quite suddenly, this Fisher appeared bounding along the marsh edge and then slipping into the water. The name of the Fisher, sometimes called a Fisher Cat, implies that its diet is of fish though it seldom eats aquatic organisms. Early Dutch settlers noted its similarity to the European polecat (Mustela putorius). Fitchet is a name derived from the Dutch word visse which means 'nasty'. To debunk another misconception, they are not really very nasty. In fact, this largest member of the weasel family is quite timid. They eat mostly rabbits and porcupines and are one of the few animals that will pursue and attack porkies. Contrary to popular myth, they don't toss over the porky and eat its belly like a melon. They repeatedly bite the face of the porky, until they kill it. It takes about 30 minutes. Fishers are generalist predators and will also eat carrion. Perhaps another reason it came so close to me was because I was downwind in a steady breeze (it would be really juvenile to make a rude remark here, don't you think?). Fishers do have a call issued at night from the conifer woods they prefer that is a wild-crazy-person-killing-somebody sound. We hear it frequently at night. I've often thought that someone was being harmed and have thought of calling the sheriff on more than one occasion. I've got an audio clip below so you can hear it. When I play this, our dogs get all cranked up barking and running around. It's not uncommon for them to start barking in the middle of the night when they hear this shrieking. The pelts of fishers were so popular that by the mid eighteen hundreds they had been nearly wiped out in New England. Fishers reproduce once a year. They don't hang out with each other unless to mate in late March and early April. Then, the female delays embryo implantation until the following February when active pregnancy begins. She gives birth about 50 days later, usually in a hollowed out tree. She'll have 1-6 kits. The adults are about 35-40" long and weigh around 10 pounds. The males are a little bigger than the females. The largest recorded Fisher weighed in at twenty pounds. They will eat cats and attack dogs, but not people. Nonetheless, this one was big enough that I would not have wanted it coming at me and in a bad mood.
Play this with your volume up for a real hair-raising noise. Because we have lots of conifers and lots of Porcupines, we have lots of Fishers, though this is the first one I've ever seen. Are you wondering where the Belted Kingfisher photos are? Hold your horses; I'll put them on the next post.