Twelve fishers were released Thursday in Olympic National Park, part of the three-year effort to reintroduce the animal. Eight of the animals were released in the Graves Creek drainage of the Quinault valley and four in the Bogachiel valley.
About the size of a cat, fishers are members of the weasel family, and are native to the forests of Washington, including the Olympic Peninsula. Fishers vanished from the state decades ago because of over-trapping in the late 1800s and early 1900s and habitat loss and fragmentation, according to a park news release.
Since 2008, 77 fishers have been released in the park. Project partners hope to release at least 15 more animals about a month from now, which will be the final release for the project. The goal is to re-establish a self-sustaining population in the park.
“We began this project with the goal of releasing 100 fishers over the course of three winters,” Olympic National Park superintendent Karen Gustin said in a prepared statement. “Thanks to the contributions and support from many partners in both Washington and British Columbia, we are very close to meeting our goal.”
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife and park are joint project managers. They, along with the U.S. Geological Survey, are leading a research and monitoring program to evaluate the success of the reintroduction.
In order to track the population, each animal wears a small radio transmitter, allowing biologists to track and monitor its movements.
The British Columbia Ministry of Environment is supporting the effort to capture and import fishers to Washington. Nonprofit partners Conservation Northwest, the Doris Duke Foundation and the Wildlife Conservation Society are providing support for this final year of fisher releases, said the news release.