WCS North America

Fisher Translocation to the Northern Sierra Nevada

Wide-ranging imperiled species present an interesting challenge for conservationists. Core protected areas are not sufficient for sustaining populations, and thus conservation action must extend beyond these boundaries and into privately owned and managed landscapes. For example, the coniferous and mixed forests occupied by fishers are also a source of timber and portions of the fisher's former range is now owned by industrial forestry companies. Working with private citizens and businesses can be challenging but by using a collaborative approach, conservationists may gain the participation necessary for long-term success.

WCS's Fisher Translocation Project in the northern Sierra Nevada is an excellent example of the type of partnerships that may be formed between conservationists, government agencies, and industry. Concerned about the future of fishers in California, the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW), Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI), and North Carolina State University launched a cooperative venture to reintroduce fishers in the northern Sierra Nevada region. Under a new, legally binding Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances, the USFWS and SPI agreed to translocated fishers to the Stirling Management Area, a timber production site owned by SPI. Over the course of seven years our collaboration is intensively studying the released fishers to measure the fishers' survival and success in colonizing the new area. Between 2009 and 2011 forty fishers were translocated to Stirling and are currently being monitored by project partners. In 2012 WCS joined the collaboration to provide technical and administrative support.

This project also provides an opportunity for an unprecedented study of the effects of translocation on fisher populations. Translocation is often used as a conservation tool to recover declining wildlife populations. Although fishers have been translocated at least thirty times in North America, the population-level effects at either the origin ("source") or the destination are not well known. At the source - the Klamath River Watershed in northern California - non-invasive genetic sampling techniques are being used to estimate how fisher removals impact the size and persistence of the population. The fishers released in the Stirling Management Area are also being monitored to provide unique and valuable knowledge of the success of translocation practices. Carnivore translocations are expensive, time consuming, and controversial. Understanding the factors that influence the success of this translocation could be pivotal for successful, cost effective translocations to other parts of the fisher's historic range.

Goals

  • The establishment of a self-sustaining population of fishers in the northern Sierra Nevada Mountains of California.
  • An understanding of fisher behavior and fitness-related responses to industrial forest management.
  • Strong relationships among a diverse range of stakeholders, including federal and state agency officials, academic researchers, NGOs, private industrial landowners, and the public.

Activities

Fisher Translocation & Monitoring in an Industrially-Managed Forest

WCS and our partners are assessing the impact of removing fishers from a source population in the eastern Klamath River Watershed and translocating the animals to the northern Sierra Nevada Mountains. We are also evaluating the success of the translocated fishers by monitoring fisher survival, reproduction, habitat selection, and long-term population persistence. We are also building a base of data on the response of fishers to industrial forest management practices.

Contact

WCS North America Program
212 South Wallace Avenue, Suite 101 Bozeman, MT, 59715 USA
(406) 522-9333

Key Staff

Kevin Smith
Fisher Translocation Field Coordinator

Partners Include

United States Fish and Wildlife Service
Sierra Pacific Industries
North Carolina State University
California Department of Fish and Game
Integral Ecology Research Center