Throughout my career in wildlife work, I have had a number of awe-inspiring experiences. Often, these are times when I’ve managed to catch a rare glimpse into the life of a wild animal. While tracking fishers, I have had a few awesome encounters (many of which have been written about in previous blog posts). A couple of weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to have two experiences back-to-back which I know will stick with me for the rest of my life.
The first of these happened during a opportunistic walk in of fisher F8B8D. This fisher was among the first group of fishers translocated to Stirling back in ’09-’10. A few months after her release, her transmitter failed, and we were left wondering what happened to her. To our delight last fall, we re-captured her! Since that time we have been faithfully tracking her and learning what areas of the study area she has settled down in.
As the VHF signal grew stronger and I knew that I was getting close, I looked around at the nearby trees for any sign of her. About 30ft up in a Douglas fir, I noticed a nest. I’ve found fishers resting in nests many times before, so I moved upslope of the tree to get a better look. Sure enough, I saw the tell-tale silhouette of a fisher head. I got my binoculars out, and to my surprise I found not one, but two fishers returning my stare from the nest!
The very next day I had a similar experience, only this time it was with a different fisher (36A8B, a two-year old). This time as I got close, I looked up at a nest and again saw two fishers staring back at me. As I was looking for a collar to try and identify who was who, 36A8B came into view from a higher branch, made her way down the tree, and briefly joined the two kits in the nest. I was staring at three fishers!
It’s always very exciting to get a glimpse of a fisher. Even though I often get fairly close to them while conducting radio telemetry, they are very hard to see, and are usually resting in the cavity of a tree or run away when I try to approach. This is the first (and second) time in my many years of tracking to get to see a mother with her kit(s)!
Besides from just getting an awesome look at five fishers in two days, these two particular cases were also helpful for us. Both of these females were suspected to den this spring, but we were never able to confirm kits from them with remote cameras. These visuals confirmed that they had reproduced this year, and have raised at least some of their offspring to this point! By this time the kits are getting to be pretty large, with the juvenile males being about the same size as an adult female. It won’t be too long now before the kits will disperse and be on their own.