Fall brings about a good time to try and trap fishers, and we have been very busy over the past month doing just that. This intensive trapping effort of the Stirling district, dubbed “Fisher Frenzy”, finally concluded this past week. The trapping that we conduct here serves many purposes (some of which will be discussed in future posts). Importantly, it allows us to examine the condition of both juveniles and adults, and affix radio-collars on selected fishers so we can track them in the future. This year, we split the trapping effort between two different sides of the study area, running the first 14 nights of trapping on the eastern portion of the study area, and the last 14 nights on the western side. When we talk about different sides of the study area, we are using the north-south running Butte Creek as the divider. This split has more to do with logistics than actual geography. The sides are accessed from different highways (and getting across the creek is time consuming).
The beginning of this years’ event coincided with the first major storm of the fall, which soaked the lower elevations and left 1-2 feet of snow up in the higher areas of the study area. This made for a challenging couple of days, and closed many of the traps temporarily. Luckily, a dry spell followed which allowed us to get nearly everything re-opened, and over the two week period we were successful in capturing quite a number of animals.
On the east side, 16 individual fishers were trapped. We captured a good mix of both adults and juveniles, males and females. Total number of fisher captures on this side was 26, with a few animals being trapped more than once. In addition to the fishers, we caught a variety of other mesocarnivores in the traps.
After the first two weeks we left our comfortable accommodations (the former SPI office in Stirling City) to camp out on western side of the study area. Again we got a fair amount of rain and a bit of snow, but caught a good number of fishers on this side as well. Over the final 14 days, we were able to capture 13 individual fishers (17 total).
In addition to only looking at fishers, this year some of the folks from the CDFG Wildlife Investigation Lab and the Integral Ecology Research Center came out to do examinations of some of the other animals that we catch. Spotted skunks, ringtails, and grey foxes were processed, with the general purpose to look at disease exposure in fishers and these other forest mesocarnivores.
Overall, we are pretty pleased with the way things went. Between both sides, we caught a total of 29 individual fishers during 28 days. We know that we failed to capture a few animals (those with collars which are still working), but that is expected. Some of the animals are in areas that were hard to get to (especially after the first snow), and some seem to just be very trap shy. Now we have the task of keeping track of all these new animals, and it will be interesting to find out where some of these younger animals will end up living.
Over the entire month, we ran somewhere in the neighborhood of 2500 trap nights. This was a massive effort that could not have been done without the help of many people. Specifically, we got some much needed labor from Sierra Pacific Industries, as well as the use of the old Stirling City office so we didn’t have to completely rough it for a month. US Fish and Wildlife provided many helping hands, as well as a life-saving wall tent and stove in the latter parts of trapping. Among many other things, Fish and Game provided the mobile lab which made processing fishers less stressful than working them up out in the field. A huge thank you to everyone who came out to lend a hand!
Here are some pictures of the event. Enjoy!