Rare fishers caught on camera near Mount Rainier

KING 5's Alison Morrow reports.

Wildlife cameras near Mount Rainier caught a rare carnivore, recently re-introduced to Washington.

Last year, conservationists released 23 fishers in the south Cascades. They're in the wolverine family, and were nearly wiped out by trapping. Now, biologists want to know how the fishers are doing and how they're living among their new neighbors.

"We're really trying to answer the question, 'How do other carnivores influence where fishers end up?' So we're scattering cameras across the entire forest," said Mitchell Parsons, a University of Washington grad student tracking fishers.

Parsons has been monitoring a couple dozen cameras.

The cameras are picking up other forest residents, and all that's important information too.

"The cameras are intended to get an idea of where are coyotes, where are bobcats, these other carnivores that fishers are going to be competing with," Parsons said.

The next site had a little more activity.

"Here's our hair snare. You can see it's been crushed, bite marks on the edge. Something bit right through the top middle," Parsons said. "The piece of wire that was holding our chicken but now chicken."

We soon find out, it wasn't a fisher. The camera took several pictures of a bear. Bears and other wildlife have had to compete most directly with a non-forest dweller: the human. Fishers now have to do the same. They were implanted with transmitters, which also help wildlife officials track them.

Along with the cameras, they'll help humans reduce impact by learning more about how wildlife uses land.

"People often think logging is a terrible thing for forest animals, but when it's done right either through quality thinning, or leaving structure and woody debris, it can actually be used to create habitat for a lot of different animals," Parsons said.

Biologists believe a diverse ecosystem is a stable one. It's why even just one small animal that's rarely ever seen matters just as much as what's more obvious on Washington's horizon.

Another set of fishers will likely be released in December.

Copyright 2016 KING


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