The other day I found myself standing on a fallen log, trying to decide which way to go next. The occasion? I was attempting to walk-in on female 21FB6 in hopes of finding another one of her maternal dens. I knew that I was close. I had just passed the “sigh of relief” point; that grand moment in a walk-in when you know that you are close enough that the fisher isn’t likely to run away, making the trudge through a few hundred yards of thick understory vegetation (and in this case, millions of spider webs at face level) worthwhile. Especially at this time of year, dens become harder and harder to locate. It seems that females only spend a short time there before heading off again to forage. As such, I was excited to get close and find her resting.
There were a couple of likely den tree candidates next to where I was standing. To one side of me stood a good sized maple, which looked like it might contain a few cavities. On the other there was a very large Douglas fir, which was tall enough that I couldn’t see a large portion of it due to the understory vegetation. When you get very close to a fisher, it is often difficult to determine exactly where it is. The signal tends to change dramatically with every step you take, leading you off in various directions for a few meters before abruptly changing again. The solution I usually use to find the animal is to back a little ways away from the suspect trees, and circle them from a distance. More than not with using this strategy, one of the trees eventually stands out as the more likely candidate.
Standing between the two trees, I was getting my strongest signal yet, but the signal kept changing. One second, I would think she was in the maple. The next, the signal from the Douglas fir was stronger. I took a few steps away from the log and listened again. To my surprise, this time the strongest signal didn’t seem to be emitting from either of the suspect trees, but from the log I had just been standing on! I moved to one end which was hollow, and shone my flashlight in. Two bright green orbs were reflecting back. I had literally been standing directly on top of her!
This was only the second time that I have found a fisher resting in a fallen log, although I suspect it’s more common than we document. I don’t believe she had any kits with her, but it was difficult to get a good look because she was far back in the log. It is fairly rare (for me at least) to walk-in on a denning female who isn’t in her den, so I was a bit surprised to find her where I did. Although I wasn’t able to find a den in this case, it was certainly nice to get a look at her!