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December 21, 2012

Nothing hunts like a fisher


Over the last few years, many people in this area have asked me about fishers. They’ve been spotted in West Oneonta, on Winney Hill, near Milford, and along Route 51 in Morris. Several years ago, the DEC released several pairs of fishers on state land around the area, and they’ve done well. That’s because they’re very efficient predators.

My old friend John Vodron once told me how good the fisher is as a hunter.

“A red squirrel is about as fast as any animal is in the tree tops, but they’re no match for a pine martin,” he said. “But after the martin catches the squirrel, the fisher gets the martin.”

One of the fisher’s favorite foods is porcupine. There are few animals that can kill and eat a porcupine without a mouthful of painful quills. But a fisher knows all the tricks. When he finds a hedgehog up in the tree tops, he will climb up and slice open its unprotected belly with its sharp claws. Before long, the porky dies and falls to the ground, feeding the fisher for several days.

I was snowshoeing back in the White House country years ago and saw something going in and out of the snow several yards ahead of me. When it disappeared from sight, I’d move silently forward. Suddenly, a fisher came up out of that hole in the snow and he wasn’t very happy. He hissed at me before running off into the woods.

I poked around and discovered that he had been feeding inside a deer carcass buried in the deep winter fluff. I continued on up the trail toward Hamilton Lake Stream and I’m sure the fisher quickly returned to its precious treasure.

Certainly eating on a dead deer is a whole lot easier than hunting down some patige in order to survive the winter.

Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at

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