Fishers are elusive, forest-dwelling members of the weasel family with long, slim bodies, short legs, rounded ears and bushy tails.

Fishers are larger and darker than martens and have thick fur. Fishers are agile, swift and excellent climbers, with the ability to turn their back feet nearly 180 degrees allowing them to climb head-first down trees. Despite their name, fishers do not hunt or eat fish, but have a varied diet consisting mostly of small to mid-sized mammals including squirrels, wood rats and hares. Rampant loss of forest habitat due to aggressive logging of the past remains a problem, and unsustainable logging continues to impact fisher habitat today. Abnormally large, severe fires and poisoning by rodenticide used in illegal marijuana growing operations on public lands also contribute to the decline of this rare and charismatic critter. 

Defenders' Impact

In both the northern Rockies and their West Coast range, Defenders is working to secure adequate federal protections for fishers and their habitats, actively influencing policies and decisions affecting them — such as trapping in Montana and logging important habitat in California’s southern Sierra Nevada — and preparing for changes to fisher habitat caused by climate change.

Defenders successfully advocated for protecting the highly isolated fisher population in the southern Sierra Nevada under both the federal and California endangered species acts. We have also worked on the ground to introduce fishers to Olympic National Park in Washington State. 


Over-harvesting for pelts and loss of forest habitat due to logging and road building has significantly reduced and fragmented the fisher's range. Climate change could increase the frequency, size and severity of fires throughout the fisher’s range, removing the older, cavity-bearing trees they need for denning.

Protection Status
Endangered Species Act
IUCN Red List
 Least Concern
 Not Listed

Federally endangered (Southern Sierra Nevada Distinct Population Segment) and listed as threatened under the 
California Endangered Species Act (Southern Sierra Nevada population)

What You Can Do

Reduce your greenhouse gas emissions and help fight climate change.  

Latin Name
Pekania pennanti
Fishers are generally the size of a domestic cat. Male fishers can be 6.5-13 pounds and 35-47 inches long, while females weigh in at 3.5-6 pounds and are 29-37 inches in length. In their West Coast range they are slightly smaller.
Up to 7 years in the wild

Fishers live only in North America. In the U.S., they’re found from New England south to Tennessee; northern Great Lake states; northern Rockies; and several small West Coast populations in southwestern Oregon, northwestern California, and the southern Sierra Nevada. Reintroduction efforts have added populations in Olympic National Park, central Oregon and the northern Sierra Nevada.


Fishers are common in the Northeast and Midwest U.S., but rare in the northern Rockies and Northwest into California’s southern Sierra Nevada, where they are one of the rarest carnivores. Researchers believe there may be fewer than 300 adult fishers in the southern Sierra Nevada population.


Fishers prefer large areas of dense mature coniferous or mixed forest and are solitary animals. They are mainly nocturnal but may be active during the day. They travel many miles in search of prey, seeking shelter in hollow trees, logs, rock crevices and dens of other animals.


Mating Season: April
Gestation: Egg implantation is delayed until February or March of the next year, following which is a 30-day gestation period
Litter Size: 1-4 kits born mid-March to late April

The kits are dependent on their mother until the fall and usually disperse to find their own territories at 10-12 months old.


Fishers eat snowshoe hares, rabbits, rodents and birds, and are one of the few specialized predators of porcupines. Fishers are effective hunters, but are also known to eat lizards, insects, nuts and berries when larger prey is not available.


Pacific Fisher (pekania pennanti)

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Announces Endangered Species Listing of Sierra Nevada Fisher in California

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).

Wildlife and Wild Places

Beaver Swimming
Columbia River with sun
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