You may have learned a lot about cats if you’ve been Wondering with us for a while. Perhaps you’ve heard of big cats. You may be well-versed in black and white cats. Have you ever heard of a fisher cat, on the other hand?
The name “fisher cat” is a little misleading. It doesn’t hunt for food, at least not that we know of. Also, it’s not a cat! The fisher cat, on the other hand, is a large weasel.
What exactly is a fisher cat?
The fisher (Pekania pennanti) is a small carnivorous mammal native to North America. It is a forest dweller whose range extends from Canada to the northern United States.
It belongs to the mustelid family (also known as the weasel family) and belongs to the monospecific genus Pekania. It is sometimes misidentified as a fisher cat, despite the fact that it is not a cat.
The American marten (Martes americana) and Pacific marten (Martes pacifica) are closely related, but the fisher is larger (Martes caurina).
The fisher is called a pekan in some areas, after its Abenaki name, or a wejack in others, after an Algonquian word borrowed by fur traders (cf. Cree wuchak, otchock, Ojibwa ojiig).
Chipewyan thacho and Carrier chunihcho, both meaning “big marten,” and Wabanaki uskool are other Native American names for the fisher.
Apart from humans, fishermen have few predators. They’ve been trapped for their fur since the 18th century. Their pelts were in such high demand that they were nearly extinct in the early twentieth century in several parts of the United States.
The species has recovered thanks to conservation and protection measures, but their current range is still smaller than it was previously. When pelt prices were high in the 1920s, some fur farmers tried to raise fishers. However, due to their unusually long gestation period, breeding was difficult.
Most fisher farming ceased in the late 1940s when pelt prices fell. While most anglers avoid human contact, some conflicts have arisen as a result of encroachment into forest habitats.
Male and female anglers have similar appearances but differ in size, with males being up to twice as large as females. The fisher’s fur changes with the seasons, becoming denser and glossier in the winter.
As the fur goes through a moulting cycle in the summer, the colour becomes more mottled. The fisher prefers to hunt in the middle of the woods. Despite its ability to climb, it prefers to forage on the forest floor, where it prefers to forage around fallen trees.
The fisher is an omnivore who eats a wide variety of small animals as well as fruits and mushrooms on occasion. It favours snowshoe hares and is one of the few animals capable of successfully preying on porcupines. It rarely eats fish, despite its common name.
The fisher’s reproductive cycle lasts almost a year. In the spring, female fishers have a litter of three or four kits. They nurse and care for their young until they are old enough to venture out on their own in late summer.
Shortly after giving birth, females enter estrus and leave the den in search of a mate. The blastocyst is not implanted until the following spring, when they give birth and the cycle begins again.
How big are Fisher cats?
Fishers range in length from 32 to 40 inches (81 to 102 cm). Their tails add 12-16 inches (30-41 cm) to their overall length. Females range in weight from 4.5 to 5.5 pounds (2-2.5 kg). Males are much larger, weighing between 8 and 12 pounds (3.5-5.5 kg).
Where is it most likely that you will come across a fisher in the wild?
They can only be found in North American forests. The best place to look for one is in Canada, but they’re also common in the northwest and California. Eastern states are also seeing an increase in fisher sightings.
If you do happen to see a fisher cat, it will most likely be a fleeting glimpse. Their short legs allow them to move quickly and keep them low to the ground. They can be mistaken for other weasels or house cats. The dark fur of fishermen makes them even harder to spot at night. These creatures are also adept at hiding in dense vegetation and tree hollows.
What do fisher cats eat if they don’t actually catch their food? These tiny creatures turn out to be vicious predators. They are, in fact, one of the few animals on the planet that eat porcupines. That’s correct! Those prickly little rodents may not look appetising to you, but they’re a feast for fishermen. Mice, hares, squirrels, and other small mammals are also known to be eaten by fisher cats.
Small pets, such as house cats, have also been reported to be hunted by anglers. However, there appears to be no solid evidence of this occurring, and experts believe it is merely a rumour. People and their pets have nothing to fear from fishers, according to researchers.
In fact, fishers have had more to fear from people than the other way around for most of history. Trapping and habitat loss nearly wiped out the fisher cat population in Washington state. They’ve been reintroduced today, but there are still safeguards in place to prevent over-trapping. Larger predators such as bobcats, coyotes, and cougars must also be avoided by anglers.
Keep an eye out for a fisher cat the next time you’re walking through a dense forest in North America. Their round, furry ears and bushy tails make them look cute, but don’t get too close! Fishers should be left alone because they are wild animals.
Learn more: Why Do British Guards Wear Furry Hats?