What is a Fisher Cat and What Does It Look Like

A lot of people have never heard of a fisher cat. What is a fisher cat? The fisher cat is a North American marten, a medium sized mustelid. The fisher is agile in trees and has a slender body that allows it to pursue prey into hollow trees or burrows in the ground. Despite its name, this animal seldom eats fish; the name may originate from the French word fichet, which referred to the pelt of a European polecat. In some regions the fisher is known as a pekan which is derived from its name in the Abenaki language.

Adults weigh between 2 and 7 kg (4-15 lbs) and are between 65 and 125 cm (29-47 inches) in length. Males are about twice the size of females, with the smallest females having been recorded being as small as 1.4 kg (3.1 lbs), hardly larger than most other martens, and males at as much as 9 kg (20 lbs). Their coats are darkish brown, with a black tail and legs; some individuals have a cream-colored patch on the chest. Each of the Fisher’s feet have five toes with semi-retractable claws. Because they can rotate their hind paws 180 degrees, they can grasp limbs and climb down trees head first. A circular patch of hair on the central pad of their hind paws marks plantar glands that give off a distinctive odor, which is believed to be used for communication during reproduction.

Fishers are solitary hunters. Their primary prey include hares, rabbits, squirrels, mice, shrews, and porcupines. Their diet may also contain small birds, fruit and berries, as well as deer in the form of carrion. While fishers and mountain lions are the only regular predators of porcupines, the fisher is the only predator to have a specialized killing technique. As observed by Robert G. Snyder in the Adirondack mountains of New York, a fisher first approaches from the direction the porcupine is facing. The porcupine tries to protect itself by turning to present its tail, covered with quills, to the attacker. The fisher then jumps directly over its prey, forcing the porcupine to keep turning to protect its vulnerable head. A dozen or more such maneuvers suffice to exhaust and confuse the porcupine into a stupor in which it can no longer protect itself. Then, by repeatedly biting and scratching at the porcupine’s face, the fisher causes it to bleed to death. The fisher eats the porcupine by flipping the dead animal over and starting with its unprotected belly.

Fishers are also known to eat ground nesting birds such as grouse and turkeys. Often, young of the year and eggs make easy targets. Also, in some areas fishers can become pests to farmers because they will get into a pen and kill large numbers of chickens. Fishers have also been known to eat small pets left outside, such as stray cats and dogs. While this is rare, when densities are high and food resources are low, animals may become desperate.

In 2005 a Boston Globe article told of fishers attacking cats. A July 4, 2007 article in the New York Times raises the possibility that fishers have turned up in Hopewell Township, New Jersey, causing concern among cat owners. Zoologists are skeptical, suggesting other animals could be responsible, observing that it would be difficult for fishers to migrate into the area. A study done in 1979 examined the stomach contents of all fisher trapped in the state of New Hampshire. Cat hairs were found in only one of over 1,000 stomachs. Attacks on domestic cats may be documented, but zoologists suggest a bobcat, coyote, or dog is more likely to kill domestic cats and chickens.

Source: wikipedia

135 responses to “What is a Fisher Cat and What Does It Look Like

  1. Fishers, are part of the weasel family, NOT feline family. Some people confuse them for part of the cat family because of their shape and size. From a distance, they can resemble a cat especially with their bushy tail. But make no mistake, a fisher is part of the weasel
    family. Take a good look at it’s face and you will see.

  2. – make no mistake folks and forget the folk tales, the Fisher is a predatory and aggressive animal.
    -it is a member of the weasel family and in some areas of Ontario were introduced to curtail the common weasel population itself.
    This is an animal that ,despite it’s size, can cause serous injury to larger animals.
    They are solitary nocturnal hunters and can be very dangerous if approached.

  3. I looked out the window this morning and saw what I first thought to be a beaver down by the creek. I soon realized it was a fisher and a big one. I’m pretty excited and hope to see him or her again. I wished I had gotten a picture. I’ve spent a lot of time in during my life in the outdoors and this is the first fisher I think I’ve ever seen.

      1. Bonjour,La rando est ouverte et assurée uniquement pour les rollers, les vélos ne sont donc pas auÃrsiot©s.C’est le moment d’essayer le roller ?!Sportivement.

      2. Co wy gadacie wczoraj w Czeladzi byÅ‚ chÅ‚opak z tym piwem i tak zachwalaÅ‚ wÅ‚aÅ›nie miodowe i żywe, że postanowiÅ‚em wziąć po butelce i byÅ‚o naprawdÄ™ dobre. WiÄ™cej takiego piwa na rynku 🙂 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      3. Cheated is a great analysis. The first 90% of the book set us up for the “secret” that was to change the world only to have that secret be ridiculously disappointing in the end. Not because it was not possible or incriminating, but simply because it was not to the level of seriousness that was suggested for hundreds of pages.

  4. Just saw a very large fisher cat in my back yard.Its around 4:00 in the afternoon it was feasting on bread we throw out for the birds. Iam glad we fence in our dogs. We live way back in the woods in Jaffrey N.H . Been up here almost 25 years and had never seen one before.

  5. Yesterday one of my hens was killed and taken away that was locked up in our barn. So we locked the remaining chickens in a shed that night until we could investigate. This morning when I went out to let them out, I went into the barn to throw them some feed. There was a tabby cat looking animal that was there and I startled it and it jumped high up and through a small opening into a stall. I was puzzled because even though I thought it was a house cat, it was larger than one and left an unpleasant scent, not like a skunk. I Googled what I saw and found two animals, one weasel like and one that looked like the animal I saw, a large gray tabby cat, both called Fisher cats. Why are they so different looking and how do I get rid of it?

    1. I forgot to add, fisher cats are a member of the weasel family and look like a large weasel, long body, shorter legs, long full tail and all one color but may occasionally have a grizzled look at the neck and shoulders where it’s fur is longer. These animals are, in no way, shape or form, a feline.

  6. Up here in Northern Vermont, we see Fisher Cats, but they are rare – because they are afraid of people. (Likely to get shot, you know?) Still, they are well known for taking out domestic dogs and cats if they can. Very mean and very, very, very fast: you don’t want to mess with them. Fortunately, if you back off, they are usually glad to leave you alone. Just like black bears.

    Of course, if you live in a place that doesn’t permit hunting (OMG: Like You Mean, With GUNS and EVERYTHING: Like NO WAY!!!)

    then they may not be quite so willing to back off.

    Hey, you pays yer money and you takes yer chances, right?

  7. We raise peacocks here and last week one came up missing. We live near the Alleghenny forest in PA. I noticed odd tracks in the snow all over our property and after showing them to several hunting friends, they determined it was probably a fisher. I’d seen one two years ago on our property and it was an odd looking thing. This was before we had peacocks. I thought it was pretty neat back then. Not so much now. I followed it’s tracks under our barn, and I’m pretty sure it’s there right now. Circle of life indeed, and my belly is grumbling.

  8. Late one night, I recorded the sound of a strange scream with my cell phone. I’d been playing the sound for anyone who would listen, asking them if they could identify what it was. Finally, an acquaintance of mine visiting from Connecticut, told me it sounded like a fisher cat. Sure enough, that’s exactly what it sounds like, but I live in central Pennsylvania! I thought they were supposed to only exist further north???

  9. Just came back from a morning walk and saw a fisher cross the dirt road in front of me. it was big and fast, they don’t like humans and it was rare to see one in the daylight. We live in a remote area around Orwell N.Y. in North Central N.Y. and they are not that rare around here but they Are an animal that you don’t want to try to make friends with because they will hurt you. We haven’t had any trouble with them and house pets but there is a lot for them to eat around here and hope they will cut the porcupine population down.

  10. Spotted 2 fisher cats in new Hyde Park, NY. They were contemplating an attack on myself and my dog but did not. I was very frightened.

  11. We have Fishers there in the Santa Cruz Mts CA – They come and hit my chicken coop everynight – Just saw one big one crossing the road in daylight.

    E

    1. You need to seal up any holes with metal………maybe put the chickens in a total fenced in area including the top………until you seal off any opening to protect those chickens.

  12. I live in western Arizona middle of the state north to south and about 30 miles east of the Colorado River. I am not sure if what I saw was a Fisher or not. It was unlike anything I had seen in this area and I have live here for over 25 years. I have ruled out everything that lives here I can think of (coyote, fox, dog cat, bobcat, cougar, coati, javalina, deer). My logic says it was just a unusual badger but if I was asked to describe it I would say wolverine or a fisher but neither should be in my desert area. I couldn’t get a good picture of it or find any tracks clear enough for an ID sadly. It puzzles me but my estimates put it at 14″-18″ tall and around 30″ long with black brown feet fading to a slightly lighter brown toward the top. Any comments?

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  15. I seen a fisher cat in the yard this morning At first I thought that we had an extra cat that showed up in the yard , I wasn’t sure till I look on Google what they looked like and it sure is a fisher cat walking away from the house with his back hunched and long straight tail behind him..Total lent most be close to 30 to 36 inches. Dark brown and some black . Most of the black was on the tail..In northern Alberta,Canada

  16. I recently started to let my cats out again where we live I wasn’t going to cause we live in a bank near the river I left one day not being able to find my one cat but when I got home I went looking for her to find her dead on the bank . She wasn’t chewed up or anything but just looked like she had 2 bites in her shoulder blades and not torn apart at all . Broken paws and and a tail . Is this something I should call someone to see about getting it removed I just don’t want it to get my other cat been watching her very well and don’t let her stay out alone to long I don’t onowwhat to do ?

  17. Saw my second fisher last night here in south eastern Mass. A rather small one so likely born this year. First one was about 10 years ago. About 30 years ago I heard screaming in the woods late at night. Sounded lika a woman either getting killed pr laid. Now I figure it was a fisher.

  18. I live in Portage Co. Ohio and 2 times this year I have seen a very large, light brown fisher going to apples 15 yards from my deer hunting ground blind. This animal is over 3 feet long and very sleek. First time I saw it I wasn’t sure what I was looking at. Fisher came to mind so I googled it and sure enough this is what is appeared to be. The color confused me because the pictures I’ve seen are darker animals. Found some articles that indicated the color can vary from light to dark. Last night it came out again and there was no doubt in my mind that it was a fisher, and a pretty large one. My grand son lives very close to this sighting and he told me he has heard some horrific screams at night and thought they were coyotes. Now we believe it may be a fisher or fishers. There is a den on the side of a bank about 30 yards from where I’ve sighted it which I’m thing it might be staying in. Can’t wait for some snow so we can back track it to see. Contacted DNR, none have been reported in Portage but one was road killed North of me in Lake Co. 2 yrs ago. The color still puzzles me, anyone seen any of simular color.

  19. Think I saw my first fisher. I live in northern MN. Was walking out on state land checking out a beaver lodge. When on my walk back home not too far from beaver pond I spotted what I thougt was a skunk coming towards me but as it got closer I noticed it was much bigger, no white stripe and a longer bushy tail. It almost looked wet or all oily . It did not appear to notice me and was moving pretty quickly towards me. I screamed to scare it off and that worked. I almost wanted to stay still as to check it out closer but since I wasn’t sure what it was I sort of panicked. I googled it when I got home and I believe it was a fisher. Should I have been scared or could I have just stood still hoping to get a better look? I really enjoy my walks in the woods and tend to venture off the beaten path just to see what’s out there.

  20. Was walking my dogs next to a pond in New Hampshire when a Fisher Cat approached. It was slow a first then started to charge. My 2 dogs are 40 lbs. a piece this Fisher wanted to attack ! when I yelled, it turned and ran away. thank goodness ! That was scary. They are not afraid and yes they are very very fast.

  21. While bof hunting Oct 3rd I saw a coyote chasing a real big fisher cat. It ran up a tree and the coyote waited at the bottom for it. After about 5 minutes the coyote took off and eventually the fisher cat came,down. I was wondering what would happen to the coyote if it got to tangle with the fisher,

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