Fishers of the North Country

Well since I talked about female fishers yesterday I though it was only fair to give the males a little play today. Fortunately, one male in particular has given us some new and interesting things to talk about. First, a little background is in order.

As some of you might know in the first year of the translocation we had a male that almost immediately after release bolted north about 50 km near the town of Manton. He stayed in that area until his transmitter failed in June of 2010. Some recent photos from that area, just north of Shingletown, CA, indicate that this male is still in the area – though we have yet to recapture this animal to confirm. We grew to call this the “Manton male” for reasons that are hopefully apparent.

In year 2, the first male we released roamed quite a bit. As a matter of fact his satellite transmitter indicated that he was all the way into the central valley (not what we think of as typical fisher habitat) on at least one occasion in January of 2011. Unfortunately, we lost track of this fellow sometime in mid 2011 and we did not know where he had gone until the fall when we captured him near Manton (while we were trying to recapture the original Manton male). In the time since his capture he had not wandered that far from the capture area, and so it appear that this is now a big portion, if not the core, of his home range. So, in two years we had two males that found there way to roughly the same area. By the way, we have no indication that other fishers live in the area.

Okay, so now we are in year 3 of the translocation. Several new males have been released and they all stayed roughly in the areas where we released them. Well, until about 2 weeks ago anyway. On March 12 male 24315 suddenly moved about 15 km north. He then moved further north, you guessed it, to right around the Manton area. In the last several days he has moved another 15 km north of Manton! So, now we have three “Manton males”. I’ve included a couple of maps showing locations for all three of the males I’ve described. The first map is a larger scaled view and shows a good cross section of where we have located all three males. The second map is a closer view of just the northern locations and roughly centered on the Manton area. The second map also shows an approximate time line for male 24315 during the last 2 weeks.

The movements of these males are curious to me because they all went north and stopped or slowed down in the same area. We have had no males travel, and stay, south or east of their release locations though we might predict that we would observe this if males were striking off in random directions. So, why are are we seeing this apparent pattern of males traveling north? The short answer is “I don’t know”. Unfortunately, we still just don’t know enough about what sort of directional or environmental cues males might be using to guide them. Moreover, what resources or restrictions cause them to end up in the same general area is also unknown. The most logical answer is that there are female fishers in the area, but camera surveys in the area – conducted over the last two years – simply do not detect other non-collared fishers. It is possible that male 24315 will come back south. This is after all the breeding season and males have been known to travel a long way to find females. For now, I suppose why these males have traveled north will remain a mystery. So, “if you’re traveling in the north country fare” keep your eyes open and maybe you’ll be lucky enough to spot one of these males in their many travels.

Locations of three male fishers

Time series of male 24315's movements from March 12- March 28, 2012

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