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For Immediate Release, April 15, 2010

Contact:  David Gaillard, Defenders of Wildlife, (406) 586-3970
Gary Macfarlane, Friends of the Clearwater, (208) 882-9755
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495

Fishers in Rocky Mountains, Rare Forest Mammal, Closer to Winning Endangered Species Act Protection

BOZEMAN, Mont.— Considered among biologists to be the rarest carnivore in the U.S. northern Rockies, the fisher passed the first hurdle toward gaining federal protection today with a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determination that this important and isolated population of fishers may be in danger of disappearing from the region. The “may be warranted” decision triggers a more thorough, 12-month study of the fisher’s status, which could lead to the little-known weasel’s listing as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

“We are encouraged that this rare and unique animal will finally get the attention it deserves,” said David Gaillard of Defenders of Wildlife, who drafted the petition to protect the population. “Fishers have called the Rocky Mountains home for generations, but their days are numbered unless we make a concerted effort to protect them and their habitat across the region.”

In the western United States, fishers once roamed throughout the dense forests of the northern Rockies and from the Pacific Northwest to the southern Sierra Nevada. They have retreated and become increasingly rare in their remaining range due to historic and ongoing trapping and logging. In 2004, the Fish and Wildlife Service determined the West Coast fisher population warranted protection as a threatened species but could not received new protections because of other priorities. Because of similar threats, last February conservationists petitioned to have fishers in the Northern Rockies listed and protected under the Act.

“It is exciting to see the Fish and Wildlife Service take this step toward protecting the fisher and its ancient forest habitat,” said Gary Macfarlane of Friends of the Clearwater. “Not only are fishers in the Clearwater genetically unique, they are a rare and wild member of the family of life that makes the Clearwater Basin a national treasure.”

Field research conducted during the past decade by U.S. Forest Service biologists in Montana and Idaho has revealed conclusive evidence that a small native fisher population in northern Idaho and northwestern Montana has survived the past century of logging and trapping. Fishers have also been reintroduced into Idaho and Montana from British Columbia and the Midwest, but the status of those populations remains precarious. No solid population count of fishers exists, but scientists believe their numbers to be far smaller than those of either wolves or grizzly bears.

“The fisher is a fascinating animal that, as a top-level predator, plays an important role in the forests of the northern Rockies,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “With today’s decision, the fisher is one step closer to the protection it needs to survive.”

“We are pleased that the conservation of this important resident of our area is moving forward,” said Larry Campbell, director of Friends of the Bitterroot.

The conservation groups that petitioned the Fish and Wildlife Service to list the Rocky Mountain fisher population include Defenders of Wildlife, Friends of the Clearwater, Friends of the Bitterroot, and the Center for Biological Diversity.


The fisher, a rare and agile forest hunter prized for its thick, soft fur, is a member of the weasel family similar to otters and minks and closely related to the marten. Despite their name, fishers do not prey on fish. Fishers live primarily in old-growth forests, where they prey on snowshoe hares and other small mammals and birds and have a remarkable ability to successfully hunt porcupines. In fact, timber companies often value fishers because they can reduce tree damage caused by porcupines.


Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit

Friends of the Clearwater is a conservation organization working to protect the public wildlands, wildlife and watersheds of the Clearwater Basin in north-central Idaho.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national nonprofit conservation organization with more than 255,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Friends of the Bitterroot is a 24-year old regional, grassroots conservation group focused on the conservation of wildlife, wildlands, and watersheds in the Bitterroot, Montana area.

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