Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced the Southern Sierra Nevada distinct population of fisher (Pekania pennanti) will be listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). The fisher is an elusive, forest-dwelling member of the weasel family. The listing protections cover this distinct population segment (DPS) of the species, which inhabits the southern Sierra Nevada in California.
The population was listed as threatened under the California Endangered Species Act in 2016 and faces threats including climate change, rodenticide poisoning from illegal marijuana cultivation and vehicle collisions, as well as habitat loss from tree mortality, wildfires and logging. An unprecedented drought from 2011-2015 coupled with higher temperatures triggered by climate change caused a massive proliferation of native bark beetles, resulting in more than 130 million dead trees in the Sierra Nevada region.
FWS has determined there are two distinct West Coast populations of fisher: the Southern Sierra Nevada DPS and the Northern California-Southern Oregon (West Coast) DPS.
In November 2019, the FWS published a reversal in a proposed rule to list the West Coast DPS of fisher as threatened, which leaves that population without ESA protections.
“While the decision to list the Sierra Nevada fisher is a great step towards the recovery of this critically imperiled population, it is disappointing to see the West Coast population left without protections,” said Pamela Flick, California program director for Defenders of Wildlife. “Both populations face a wide variety of threats and need federal protections in order to survive and thrive.”
Defenders has advocated for protecting the fisher and its West Coast territory under both the federal and California endangered species acts. We have also worked in collaboration with other on-the-ground partners to reintroduce fishers to the Olympic peninsula and the Cascade mountains of Washington State.