Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, August 30, 2016

Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495,

Northern Rockies Fisher One Step Closer to Endangered Species Protection

Trapping, Habitat Loss Continue to Threaten Rare Forest Carnivore

VICTOR, Idaho— The Center for Biological Diversity today reached a settlement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requiring the agency to determine whether the Northern Rockies fisher warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act by 2017. Although fishers once inhabited old-growth forests from northeastern Washington, Idaho, Montana and northwest Wyoming to north-central Utah, fishers were nearly extirpated in the 1920s and now only survive along the border of northern Idaho and Montana. Trapping and continued habitat degradation continues to threaten the remaining populations.

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

“Northern Rockies fishers need protection under the Endangered Species Act to limit continued threats to their survival, including legal and incidental trapping,” said Andrea Santarsiere, a staff attorney at the Center. “We are hopeful that the Service will choose to protect the fisher to give the species a fighting chance at recovery.”

The Center petitioned for protection of the fisher in 2013, but the Service is now more than two years late in making a decision on the imperiled carnivore’s protection. In January of this year, the Service issued a positive “90-day finding” on the petition, and is now conducting a review of the animal’s status to determine if federal protection is warranted. The new settlement ensures that the Service will continue its review and issue a final decision by Sept. 30, 2017.

Fishers are cat-like, medium-sized members of the weasel family with slender, brown bodies and long, bushy tails. They are still legally trapped in Montana. In May 2016 the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission proposed a zero quota for next season, which would have effectively prohibited intentional fisher trapping in Montana. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks pushed back on the commission’s proposal, however, and as a result fishers will continue to be threatened by legal trapping in Montana this year.

“Alongside habitat loss, trapping is one of the primary threats to Northern Rockies fishers,” said Santarsiere. “Given Montana’s recent decision, it’s apparent that federal protection is the only way to curb this ongoing threat.”

Fishers are also severely threatened by incidental trapping in Idaho and Montana. As trapping for wolves, bobcats and other species has increased in Idaho and Montana, so have levels of “incidental” trapping of fishers. Reported nontarget catch of fishers by individual fur-takers in Idaho from the 2010-2011 season through the 2014-2015 season have totaled 159 fishers, 66 of which have been killed. It is unknown how many fishers are incidentally trapped and killed in Montana each year, because the state does not maintain records of nontarget catch.

Under the terms of a 2011 agreement with the Service, the Center can choose 10 species per year for expedited decisions on whether they should receive Endangered Species Act protection. The other nine priority species for 2016, with the years in which they will receive decisions, include the monarch butterfly (2019), alligator snapping turtle (2020), California spotted owl (2019), foothill yellow-legged frog (2020), Canoe Creek pigtoe (2020), beaverpond marstonia (2017), cobblestone tiger beetle (2019), Barrens topminnow (2017) and Virgin River spinedace (2021). Under the settlement 147 species have gained protection to date, and 35 species have been proposed for protection.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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