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Here today, here tomorrow: Managing forests for fisher habitat in the Northern Rockies

Posted date: August 09, 2016
Publication Year: 
2016
Authors: Miller, Sue; Schwartz, Michael K.Olson, Lucretia E.
Publication Series: 
Miscellaneous
Source: Science You Can Use Bulletin, Issue 20. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 12 p.

Abstract

The fisher is a unique member of the weasel family and a sensitive species in the northern Rockies. They were almost extirpated by trapping in the early twentieth century, but these animals (a mix between a native and introduced population) now inhabit a swath of mesic coniferous forests in Idaho and Montana. Forest managers need information on fisher distribution and habitat needs to conserve this species while balancing multiple uses of forest lands and to maintain fisher populations under climate change. Hard to find and track on the landscape, RMRS researchers have collected hundreds of DNA samples via hair snares, which provide genetic and locational information. Matching DNA samples to habitat features at various scales, the animals were found to choose habitat at both the stand- and the landscape-scale, requiring large trees and forests with a lot of cover and structure, all nested within a larger forested landscape. Researchers are using DNA data to create fisher distribution maps that can be used for forest planning or decisionmaking in the field. Models of fisher habitat in the future under a warming climate suggest that the amount of favorable area is likely to expand and move eastward into the Interior West, but it could become more fragmented. The amount of suitable habitat for fishers will also depend on the minimum usable habitat patch size and distances that animals are able to disperse through unfavorable habitat. Now and in the future, fisher management will require retention and fostering of mature, complex, mesic forests with a high degree of habitat connectivity.

Citation

Miller, Sue; Schwartz, Michael; Olson, Lucretia. 2016. Here today, here tomorrow: Managing forests for fisher habitat in the Northern Rockies. Science You Can Use Bulletin, Issue 20. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 12 p.