Humans at Carleton share the Arb with remarkable species. Some of these creatures are abundant and conspicuous, while others are less in number and reclusive. Fishers (Pekania pennanti) are a mammal in the weasel family (Mustelidae) that embody the latter traits.
Larger than the more common American mink (Neogale vison), fishers are one of a few weasel species that inhabit Minnesota. Fishers were trapped to near extinction in Minnesota and the eastern U.S. after European settlement, but their population has rebounded (see dnr.state.mn.us/mammals/fisher.html). More common in the northern reaches of the state, fishers are increasing in range and in population in southern Minnesota (per postbulletin.com/lifestyle/nature-nut-once-elusive-fishers-are-becoming-a-more-common-catch).
The fisher increase in southern Minnesota now has an additional data point. Following multiple reported sightings in the Arb, the first verifiable Arb fisher observation occurred this summer.
One of the Arb trail cameras captured a fisher photo in late July. Given the time of day that fishers are active and their low numbers around Northfield, it is unlikely to see one in person. This is one of the values of trail cams: they allow us to observe species that are difficult to find.
An omnivore, fishers are great hunters. They hunt a variety of mammals, including squirrels. Where the species overlap, fishers are a key predator of porcupines (MN DNR). Now that is courageous!
While strolling through the Arb, keep your eyes peeled for fishers and other amazing animals that live in the forests and prairies, but also think about what you might not be seeing. Undetected by people, a fisher may be going about its day, frolicking in our beloved Arb.
Photo caption: Fisher on an Arb trail camera (July 2022).
Avery Blumenthal ‘23, for the Cole Student Naturalists
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