Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, June 11, 2015

Contact: Justin Augustine, (415) 436-9682;

Pacfic Fisher Recommended for California Endangered Species Act Protection

Rare Forest Carnivore Decimated by Logging Now Also Poisoned by Marijuana Growers

SAN FRANCISCO— In response to a petition and lawsuit from the Center for Biological Diversity, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife today recommended state Endangered Species Act protection for the fisher in the southern Sierra Nevada portion of its range.

Photo courtesy Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. This photo is available for media use.

Though this cat-like member of the weasel family was once wide-ranging, today only two naturally occurring fisher populations survive — one in the southern Sierra and another in Northern California. The department did not recommend protecting the fisher’s northern population. The state Fish and Game Commission will vote in August on whether to finalize protection for one or both populations.

“It’s great news that fishers in the Sierras are moving toward protection, but all California’s fishers deserve full protection under the state’s Endangered Species Act,” said Justin Augustine, a Center attorney. “These special carnivores need to be shielded from widespread logging and the toxic chemicals used by some marijuana growers.”

The Center petitioned for state protection for the fisher in 2008. In 2010 the Fish and Game Commission voted against protection, but the Center successfully challenged that decision in court, leading to today’s recommendation.

The commission initially tried to reject the 2008 petition without conducting a full scientific review. Only after the Center exposed correspondence showing that many of the department’s own scientists believed fishers may be at risk of extinction did the commission reverse course and direct the department to conduct a full review. The department’s 2010 review of the fishers’ status in California was heavily criticized by independent biologists.

“Fishers once thrived in California’s forests, but the two small remaining populations are now at substantial risk of extinction without the full legal protection they clearly deserve,” said Augustine. “We’ll urge the Fish and Game commission to safeguard all fishers in California.”

Fishers were eliminated from all of Washington, most of Oregon and half of California by trapping and logging. They are the only animals that regularly prey on porcupines.

Although Pacific fisher trapping was outlawed in the 1940s, logging and development have decimated the large blocks of forest the species needs to survive. Fishers rely on dense, mature forests due to the thick canopy of overhead cover these forests offer. Old trees and snags provide the structures that fishers need for resting, denning and protection from larger predators.

All Pacific populations of fishers in California, Oregon and Washington were proposed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act in October 2014, also because of a Center petition and lawsuit. The federal listing should be finalized in April 2016. Though fishers were extirpated in Washington state, a population was reintroduced into Washington’s Olympic National Park in 2008. 

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Go back