Critter identified as a rare fisher

Fishers are closely related to wolverines but are part of the weasel family.
This is Larry Lavoie’s photo of the cat-like creature taken near the museum recently.

By Per Peterson

Last week’s Headlight-Herald published a story on page three about a black, cat-like animal roaming around the grounds at the Wheels Across the Prairie Museum. As it turns out, it was quite a rare discovery.

Larry Lavoie took photos of the animal but had no idea what it was. After the piece was published, local trapper Shannon Cohrs solved the mystery, identifying the creature as a fisher.

Spotting a fisher near Tracy is extremely rare, Cohrs said. They can most commonly be found in many areas of Canada, certain locations in the northwest United States and in parts of far northern Minnesota.

“They’re not prone to being out here in the prairie,” Cohrs said. “I have seen signs of them, but I haven’t seen one. There were a couple sightings 10 years or so ago by Lake Sarah and one in the Storden-Jeffers area last fall. I’ve seen tracks and have trapped them before in northern Minnesota.”

Lavoie said it looked like a large cat, but in fact the fisher is part of the weasel family and are great climbers. In fact, Cohrs said, as ‘cavity nesters,’ they have been known to climb trees as high as 60 feet up to nest and have their young.

“When they have their young, they have them in a cavity, then go out for up to two weeks, trying to find a male to get bred again,” said Cohrs. “They’ll hold the sperm, then drop the egg into it the next fall. It’s called ‘delayed implantation.’ The fisher and marten are the only two animals that do that.”

Cohrs said fishers are a protected species and there is a six-day season on them, which starts the first Saturday after Thanksgiving.

“They kind of keep to themselves,” said Cohrs. “They’re kind of neat animals. They won’t mess with people unless they’re cornered. They’re pretty much like a wolverine.”