All About Fisher Cats

Fisher Cat

What Are Fisher Cats?

Fisher Cats are small carnivorous mammals native to the coniferous forests of the northern United States and Canada. The proper names for fisher cats are fishers or pekans, depending on the region.

They are members of the Mustelidae family. Other mustelids include weasels, mink, badgers, martens, otters, wolverines, and ferrets.

Some Commonly Asked Questions About Fisher Cats

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What Do Fisher Cats Look Like?

Visually, fisher cats resemble a larger version of a marten. They’re proportionately long-bodied. Additionally, their legs are short relative to the size of their bodies. They also have a long tapering tail that contributes about 40% of their total length.

Their hair is brown, sometimes trending to blackish brown. They have white guard hairs interspersed with the brown on their chest and shoulders. Also, occasionally one will have a white patch on its chest.

They also have five toes on each foot and retractable claws that aid them in climbing trees.

Adult Male fishers are 35 to 47 inches (90 to 120 cm) long and weigh 8 to 30 pounds. Female fishers look similar to males but are smaller. An adult female fisher will weigh 4 to 10 pounds (2.0 to 4.5 kg) and be 30 to 37 inches (75 to 95 cm) in length. source

Where Do Fisher Cats Live?

Fisher cats are native to the coniferous forest regions of North America. They were over trapped in the late 19th and early 20th centuries due to the high value of their pelts. Consequently, they were completely expatriated in some of their traditional range.

The areas where fisher cats live today, either due to reintroduction efforts or because they have never left, are as follows. In the northwest, their range begins in southeastern Alaska and goes east through southern Canada.

The northeastern United States fishers live in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Michigan. There are also fisher cats in West Virginia. In the middle states, northern Wisconsin and Minnesota have fisher cats.

In the Rocky Mountain states, Montana and Idaho have Fishers. Fishers don’t officially exist in Utah, but I have seen 10mm film footage of a fisher trying to steal my dad’s fishing creel in Utah in the 1960s.

In the west coast states, fishers have been reintroduced to Washington, Oregon, and California.

What Do Fisher Cats Eat?

Fishers are mostly carnivorous. However, they also eat nuts and berries. This makes them omnivores. They feed on mice, squirrels, snowshoe hares, woodchucks, insects, carrion, and, more importantly, porcupines. Even though porcupines are difficult to kill, a porcupine can serve as a food source for many days for a fisher. Fishers also feed on eggs and baby birds.

Snowshoe hares

Snowshoe hares are ranked very highly as a preferred meal for the fisher. With very keen senses of sight and smell, the fisher can stalk the snowshoe rabbits. They can also run on top of the snow when they’re chasing them. Red squirrels are also common prey for the fisher.


Several animals eat porcupines, but they’re not the first choice on their menu due to the danger in their quills. Interestingly fisher cats seek out porcupines because they’re skilled and especially suited to hunt and kill them. When porcupines encounter a predator, they bristle up their quills and keep their protected backside towards their attacker. Fisher cats are built low to the ground. What’s more, they’re and quick and nimble. Using these two advantages, they circle the porcupine and dart in to bite, scratch their unprotected face and head until they’re able to deliver a killing strike which probably amounts to crushing their skull.

Porcupines are not usually safe when climbing trees since fishers attack them from the top side. They may be safe from fisher attacks if they are on branches and face away from the fisher or in a good position to hide their faces. Fisher cats move very fast, and with the help of their short legs, they can keep low on the ground. Additionally, fishers have strong claws that are useful for climbing purposes.

Gifted Predators

They have five toes on their foot, and their feet are proportionately large, making it easier for them to run on top of the snow. They also have four central pads on each of their foot and mobile ankle joints, capable of rotating the hind paws at about 180 degrees, making it easier for them to maneuver up and down trees. In fact, the fisher is known to be one of the few species amongst mammals that has the ability to descend trees head-first.

Both male and female fishers are skilled predators. These animals are known to be aggressive hunters. The raccoon may be attacked by a large fisher in trees or even on the ground. Additionally, fishers prey on martens. Fishers will also kill bobcat kittens when their mother leaves them unattended while out hunting.

Why Do Fisher Cats Scream ?

Fishers scream at night. It sounds something like a woman or a small child screaming for help. Incidentally, the sound is terrifying in the dark, particularly to a camper that doesn’t know what they’re hearing.

Fisher cats scream for different reasons. Sometimes it’s a hunting call. Other times they scream when they’re mating. They’ve also been observed to scream just before or after they attack and kill prey.

Do Fisher Cats Attack Humans?

Sometimes they do. Generally speaking, fisher cats are shy nocturnal animals that avoid humans. However, they are also tightly strung and vicious when they think you’ve got them cornered. In the northeastern United States, where fisher cats and humans live together in the same space, they do attack people occasionally.

Fisher Habitat

According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, fisher cats prefer coniferous or mixed conifer hardwood forests with greater than 50% mature trees. They use mature trees with large limbs and crevises to den in.

Fisher Cats are Vital to the Health of the Forest.

In areas where fisher cats were expatriated from their native range, the northeastern US, the result was an overpopulation of porcupines. In turn, this resulted in a decimation of the forest. Fisher cats are vital in balancing the ecosystem in these areas.

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