Pioneering genetics research aids in fisher survival
Rocky Mountain Research Station scientists and collaborators have pioneered a mitochondrial genome sequencing technique that can be used to answer questions about to the connectivity and genetic health of endangered species populations. The fisher, a forest carnivore, can be found in various places across the US, in part due to successful reintroduction efforts. Rocky Mountain Research Station researchers have found the previously held view that humans extirpated fishers from the central part of California is not true. They found instead that the northern and southern Sierra fishers naturally split up thousands of years ago. The implication of this finding is that the small southern population is likely more vulnerable as it has been historically more isolated. This might suggest that the southern population warrants additional protection. Another interesting finding shows that the Rocky Mountain fisher population, once thought completely extinct, actually survived. Scientists now know that there are different lineages of fishers in the Rocky Mountains: those that were native and those that were reintroduced. This research is helping to inform Fish and Wildlife Service Threatened and Endangered Species listing decisions and management prescriptions that can now begin to allocate scarce conservation dollars towards the population needing a higher level of protection.