February 25, 2011
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Today’s Forgotten Photo is not of an insect…not even an arthropod! But it’s still cool (says I).
Early last April, while tromping around in the Bird Sanctuary near my home, I strayed off the well-marked paths and wandered down towards the river. The shoreline was heavily dressed in last year’s cattails, crispy and brown. A large beaver lodge hugged the shore about 75 m from where I balanced on a fallen tree overhanging the chilly water. I noticed a whiff of movement behind the mound of rough-hewn wood; I figured the lodge’s occupant was doing some repairs. But no: it was an intruder.
A fisher (Martes pennati), sleekly slinking amongst the branches. Sometimes called “fisher-cat”, this member of the weasel family has few predators other than humans. Fishers are equipped with long, retractable claws, long legs, a long tail, and keen senses: it is a swift, agile and fearless predator, at home on the ground and in tree branches. They will feed on any animal they can catch, including beavers (interestingly, they rarely eat fish, despite the name). Fishers are actually the primary predators of porcupines (porcupines!) – they avoid getting quilled by attacking only the face until the animal succumbs.
I’ve seen a total of three or four fishers in the wild to date, usually catching only a fleeting glimpse as the animal dashed across a country road from one forest patch to another. This guy graced me with a show almost 3 minutes long – I only wish I’d been closer!