Okay, you’re fascinated with fierce wild animals. Here’s one that’s not just ferocious, it’s tear-your-face-off ferocious. If you’re a porcupine, that is. Meet the fisher, AKA Martes pennanti, a furry, long-bodied predator that’s a member of the extended weasel family. They’re found across a wide swath of the northern U.S., from Maine to northern California and the Pacific Northwest. Fishers grow to as much as 16 inches in length and seven pounds in weight, but don’t let that lack of stature fool you. They’re tough little guys who will eat anything they can get a hold of, from squirrels to birds, and they’re one of the few animals capable of killing a porcupine, a creature that most other predators won’t dare attack because of its sharp quills. They accomplish this by tactics that, well, Matt “the Terror” Serra couldn’t get away with the UFC. As a recent Los Angeles Times article recently explained:
In some places, fishers have been driven from their shrinking wild habitat into suburban areas, where they quite understandably see household pets as a nice meal. As the New York Times reported back in 2008:
Fishers generally don’t go after humans, though it has been known to happen on rare occasions. If you tangle with one, be sure to watch your toes. As the NYT reports:
In fairness to fishers, we humans arguably deserve to have our feet bitten by them. Hunters, who coveted fishers’ lustrous, chocolate-brown fur, nearly wiped them out, and clear-cut logging has decimated their habitat.
Today, some states and Canadian provinces list the fisher as endangered. According to the LAT article, biologists estimate that there may be as few as 1,500 fishers left in California.
Nevertheless, the federal government still only classifies the fisher as a candidate species, one that’s rare enough to be considered endangered but which is given no legal protection. Reportedly, there are about 250 other such animals and plants who’ve been languishing in similar regulatory limbo, some of them for decades. Thus, the Center for Biological Diversity, a coalition of conservation groups, has seized upon the fisher as a poster child for the problems with slowness of the government’s species protecting mechanism. The center recently filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in an attempt to force the agency to protect the fisher. As the LAT noted:
I might choose an adjective other than “neat” to describe a diminutive face-ripping predator, but Greenwald raises an important point. If we’re going to preserve ecosystems, it’s not just the cool, fascinating, high-profile animals that we need to protect. But if the fisher can strike a blow for biodiversity with its reputation as the bantamweight champion of the forest, it’s all good.