Carolee Mason reported that a woman had recently complained that her cat was missing. Mason said the woman brought in search dogs to find the cat, and the dogs followed the cat’s trail up a tree. However, it seemed the cat never came down.
Missing cats are almost always assumed to have become victims of coyotes, but a call into the Connecticut Department of Environment and Energy (DEEP) proved there is a new cat in town, and it is not a cougar from South Dakota.
Chris Vann, DEEP wildlife biologist, specializing in nuisance wild life, said that there are fisher cats throughout the area. While not widespread, heavily wooded areas are their favorite habitat.
Fisher cats are neither aquatic nor cats. Relatives of the weasel family, they are approximately the size of large domestic cats, with the long, low, body type like a ferret.
Vann said fishers are exceptional tree climbers and hunters. “Any cat is in great danger if there is a fisher cat around. Anywhere a cat can go, the fisher can go. We are concerned and do want to help people with fishers if they are having a problem,” Vann said.
Fisher cats have even been known to attack dogs. Intensely territorial, Vann said they are tenacious fighters that even prey on porcupines.
The DEEP official said if fishers are becoming problem, such as breaking into a chicken coop or try to get into screened porch to go after a cat, they are easy to trap. “Unless fishers are attacking and killing chickens, farmers have a little bit room to trap or have them removed. In my opinion, they are not as common as coyotes, and they are not considered abundant.”
They may not be abundant, but fishers can be ferocious.
Paul Rego, another biologist with DEEP, said that it is possible that fishers would hunt cats, but said, “It is unlikely, I don’t believe it happens frequently.”
Rego felt strongly that, “Coyotes are much more capable of killing cats in abundance. Twenty years ago fishers were quite rare. Then there was a program to reintroduce the species in areas that were suitably habitable. Human activities wiped them out with deforestation and hunting, but they were a native species.”
Rego said that the reintroduction came about around the time when turkeys were reintroduced, and in some cases the fishers came down from New Hampshire and Vermont while hunting turkeys.
“They are part of the whole eco system, and if you start eliminating species, one by one it becomes an unbalanced eco-system,” Rego said.
Fisher usually dine on grey squirrels and other rodents, as well as fruits and berries.
“They pose no danger to people,” Rego said. “They are shy with people.”
Rego suggested that owners supervise pets when they are out. While he believes that there is more likely to be a problem with fishers at night, he is certain that coyotes pose a greater danger. He advised, “If your pets go into the forest, they enter the eco-system, and they will be vulnerable. However, you must remember, cats are also killing their share of their animals, and are responsible for the diminishing amounts of song birds.”
The photo of the fisher was found on wikipedia. The article can be read here.