They're back. The Iowa DNR reported recently that a fisher (Martes pennanti) was recorded on a trail cam back in November in Allamakee County. This is the first documented sighting since the 1800s. So, they are back in Iowa after an absence of over 150 years.
There have been a few reports of fishers in Iowa over the years but photos allow the presence to be officially noted. A number of years ago, a Beaman resident reported seeing one near Wolf Creek Park. Without a photo or a dead specimen, the report had to be treated as highly suspect. Given the rarity of the animal, especially 30 years ago, I considered the report highly, highly suspect. Most fisher reports in Iowa are actually sightings of large mink.
The fisher is a carnivore and a cousin to the weasel, otter and mink. They are known for their fierceness. However, fishers are not dangerous to humans. They are small, solitary and rather elusive animals, typically avoiding people and developed areas. With all that said, it is important to mention that people should avoid handling a sick, wounded or cornered fisher. Any wild animal under those circumstances is dangerous.
Where did it (or they) come from? The Minnesota DNR reports that fishers are expanding into southeast Minnesota. Even Minnesota fishers were extirpated by the early 1900s. But the population has grown steadily since then. Since the late 1970s, the population has remained at more than 10,000, enough to support a regulated trapping harvest of about 2,000 each year.
So, Allamakee County is one of the very first places that we could expect to see them moving into Iowa. Minnesota is likely where this one came from. We don't know right now if fishers will reestablish themselves in Iowa, but it's certainly interesting!
Fishers eat rodents, rabbits, birds, and are even known to tackles porcupines! They do not, however, eat fish. The name "fisher" is thought to have come from early American immigrants who noted the animal's resemblance to the European polecat, which was also called a "fitchet," "fitch," or "fitchew."
They are agile and swift and are also excellent climbers.
Males and females look similar. Adult males are about 36 inches long and weigh about 10 lbs. Adult females are slightly smaller and weigh 46 lbs. The reproductive cycle of the fisher lasts almost a year! Female fishers give birth to a litter of three or four kits in the spring. Females enter estrus shortly after giving birth and leave the den to find a mate. Implantation of the blastocyst is delayed until the following spring.
I don't recommend that you take to the woods in search of fishers just yet. But if you need an excuse to get outside, it is as good as any!