Plan would reintroduce fishers into Cascades

If approved, a plan to reintroduce 80 fishers into the South Cascades, including Mount Rainier National Park, during the next two years could begin this fall.

A similar effort would follow in the North Cascades, including North Cascades National Park Complex.

Fishers are a medium-size carnivore in the weasel family. Native to the North and South Cascades in the state, they have been considered absent from Washington since the mid-1990s. The state formally listed the fisher as endangered in 1998.

The National Park Service recently completed “Fisher Restoration Plan/Environmental Assessment for Mount Rainier National Park and North Cascades National Park Service Complex” that spells out the reintroduction effort

The plan has only two options: to partner with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife financially and logistically to proceed with the reintroduction, or not.

Should the Park Service opt for the no-action alternative, the state agency would likely proceed on its own, but not within Mount Rainier.

Under the preferred option, the Park Service and state Department of Fish and Wildlife would acquire the animals from sources in British Columbia. The proposal calls for placing 80 fishers in each area during a two-year period.

The two agencies have identified nine release sites on the South Cascades, including along the upper Nisqually and Ohanapecosh rivers in the park. The area stretches from the Clearwater Wilderness south to the Trapper Creek Wilderness. There are seven sites in the North Cascades, including three in the park complex – along Thunder Creek, Cascade River and Ross Lake/Big Beaver Creek.

If approved, the plan is animals could be released in the South Cascades as soon as early or mid-November to give them time to acclimate to their new home before winter, to establish home ranges, locate possible den sites and learn about potential mates before mating season begins in March. Releases in the North Cascades would begin in Year Three of the program.

Monitoring of the released animals would take place over another two years.

A similar fisher reintroduction took place in Olympic National Park in 2008-10, during which 90 animals were released.