PA Game Commission Confirms Dead Fisher in Schuylkill County
To: ENVIRONMENTAL EDITORS
Contact: Jerry Feaser of the PA Game Commission, +1-717-705- 6541, PGCNews@state.pa.us
HARRISBURG, Pa., May 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — According to Pennsylvania Game Commission officials, an adult fisher recently was hit on a rural road in Pine Grove Township, Schuylkill County, resulting in the first record of a fisher killed in the area since a reintroduction program in 1994.
The fisher, one of the largest members of the weasel family, was found by a local man who contacted the Game Commission about the animal he saw beside the road. Schuylkill County Wildlife Conservation Officer (WCO) Will Dingman responded to the call and identified it as a fisher.
“Schuylkill County just got a little wilder,” said WCO Dingman, who noted that the county also is home to furbearers ranging from coyotes and bobcats to mink and weasels. “This animal’s death is unfortunate, but the silver lining is that it likely means fishers are present.
“It wasn’t hit in a largely forested section of the county, as one would expect. In fact, it was more than half a mile from the nearest mountain. This fisher was working lowland habitat not far from Sweet Arrow Lake.”
Dr. Matthew Lovallo, Game Commission furbearer biologist, noted that the area in which this fisher was found meshes with the latest findings of the agency’s radio-telemetry fisher research. Launched in 2006, the fisher study will delineate the home range of fishers via radio-telemetry and provide the means to generate estimates of fisher population size, density and distribution. The fieldwork, which is being conducted in partnership with Indiana University of Pennsylvania, includes collecting hair samples to extract DNA for genetic profiling and to establish a Pennsylvania fisher DNA database. The research effort also will include examining the stomach contents and reproductive tracts of road-killed fishers to learn more about this growing population.
“Our research has documented that fishers were uncharacteristically using deciduous stands and relatively new forestland,” Lovallo said, who is working with IUP’s Dr. Jeff Larkin, who is heading up the research project. “Previously, it was thought that fishers needed continuous forested areas for their survival, and were unlikely to venture into unforested areas. Conifers had been described as an essential habitat component, although fishers did occupy both conifer and mixed forests.”
Fishers are about the size of a small fox, and have a dark brown coat. Despite its name, fishers really aren’t into catching fish. They’ll eat fish if they happen upon a dead or discarded one, but they prefer squirrels, rabbits, porcupines and carrion. They weigh up to 15 pounds.
While fishers once were widely distributed throughout Pennsylvania’s forested areas, they were unable to cope with the combination of unregulated trapping and massive timber cutting during the 1800s. Fishers virtually were eliminated from the state by the early 1900s.
“By the late 1980s, through modern timber practices, large contiguous forested areas returned to the state,” Lovallo said. “Since the forested habitat that fishers require for survival was once again available, Pennsylvania started a fisher reintroduction program by releasing 22 on the Sproul State Forest in Centre and Clinton counties. Between 1994 and 1998, a total of 190 fishers were released in Pennsylvania as part of the reintroduction program partnered by the Game Commission, Frostburg State University, Pennsylvania State University and the Wild Resource Conservation Fund.”
Since that time, fisher management focuses primarily on monitoring their range expansion through fisher highway mortalities and observations by Game Commission Wildlife Conservation Officers. Personal sightings also serve as leads for the biologists who track the fisher’s continuing re-colonization of the Commonwealth.
“Pennsylvania’s fisher population has recovered so well in many areas of the state that we anticipate a highly-regulated season for fishers sometime in the future,” Lovallo said. “Fishers currently are trapped throughout several northeast states.”
For more information about fishers, visit the agency’s website (http://www.pgc.state.pa.us) and click on “Wildlife” then select “Fishers.”
Created in 1895 as an independent state agency, the Game Commission is responsible for conserving and managing all wild birds and mammals in the Commonwealth, establishing hunting seasons and bag limits, enforcing hunting and trapping laws, and managing habitat on the 1.4 million acres of State Game Lands it has purchased over the years with hunting and furtaking license dollars to safeguard wildlife habitat. The agency also conducts numerous wildlife conservation programs for schools, civic organizations and sportsmen’s clubs.
The Game Commission does not receive any general state taxpayer dollars for its annual operating budget. The agency is funded by license sales revenues; the state’s share of the federal Pittman- Robertson program, which is an excise tax collected through the sale of sporting arms and ammunition; and monies from the sale of oil, gas, coal, timber and minerals derived from State Game Lands.
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SOURCE Pennsylvania Game Commission
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