New Hampshire Fisher Cats

Fishers or as they are locally called – fisher-cats – are a breed of animals which are not related to the common cat. Their Binomial name is Martes Pennanti and this species is at low risk in terms of its conservation status. These animals are known to be agile in trees, using its long slender body to pursue prey down in tree hollows or buried in burrows in the ground. They are in fact related to the weasel, mink, marten and otter families, and despite its name, is rarely seen to eat fish.

Fisher Cats
in New Hampshire have thick, darkish brown glossy coats and the shade of fur appears to be darker on females than on the males. Adult fishers weight approximately between 4 and 15 lbs, and are anywhere between 29 to 47 inches in length. Males outweigh the females by 1:2 ratio. These animals have long, sharp, retractable claws, and are able to rotate their hind paws 180 degrees, therefore enabling them to climb trees and have a vice like grip.

Fisher cats are carnivorous by nature and are solitary hunters. Their prey include snowshoe hare, porcupine, mice, moles and shrews along with certain types of squirrels. They are also known to eat certain birds – which are ground nested like the turkey and grouse, fruit and berries that they may find, as well as a certain type of deer – carrion.

These animals are also known for their unique killing style. The fisher approaches a porcupine from the front i.e. in the same direction the porcupine is facing. This would cause the porcupine to curl up in to a protective ball to protect itself. The fisher will then resort to making numerous jumps over the porcupine so as to target the only part left uncovered by the porcupine – it’s face. However, the porcupine for its part, starts turning or rotating itself to avoid it’s face being harmed by the fisher. In doing so, it gets confused with the numerous jumps and then gives up in fatigue in trying to protect itself and starts to loosen the tight body curl. Seeing this, the fisher then resorts to repeatedly striking the porcupine’s face, thereby making it bleed profusely; and killing it. Once this is done, the fisher then turns the porcupine over on it back and then starts eating or biting it on the stomach – where the flesh is the softest and unprotected.

The mating season of these animals are from late February / March to April and it is a known fact that the specie have a circular patch of fur on the central pad of their hind paws which are marked plantar glands and which are known to give off a distinctive odor which is used as communication during this mating season. Female fishers breed from one year of age and the fisher embryos undergo a one-year gestation period. Therefore, litters are produced on an annual basis and are born in “dens” made high up – around 20 to 30 feet off the ground – in the hollows of trees. The average size of the litter is 3 kits and the mother fishers nurse these kits for the first 4 months of their lives.

Fishers are arboreal by nature and are known to travel along ridges, crossing river stream valleys and generally found in places, which have continuous tree cover. Fishers by nature avoid open spaces and are known to dwell in mature softwood, mixed hardwood – softwood and forested wastelands. For their dens, fishers have been known to use hollow trees, rocky outcrops, root masses, old porcupine dens, etc.

In order to find their prey, the fishers use their strong sharp claws to claw away at wood pieces, etc covering or protecting their prey. During the cold winters, the fishers use their temporary dens to stay in such as the hollows of trees, porcupine dens etc, as mentioned earlier and are even known to hide under the snow for a short time.

During the past few years however, the numbers of this specie has declined because of trapping and large-scale habitat loss. These animals are; however, shy, secretive and very difficult to breed in zoos. New Hampshire is one of the many places in US along with some parts of Minnesota, Sierra Nevada and a few others where this specie has been found and known to dwell. Fishers are mostly used to control porcupine populations and have therefore been introduced in many other places as well.

52 responses to “New Hampshire Fisher Cats

  1. There are fishers on Cape Cod. Saw one last night under automatic flood in backyard. Wife saw it this AM – 5:30 – as she let dog out. There have been other reports.


  2. saw a fisher for the first time 11/23/2008 crossing ct rt 35 in Schenevus New York… didn’t believe they were around until i saw one with my own eyes.. definatly a FISHER CAT

  3. A close call with a Fisher Cat tonite. It came out of the woods chasing my two little dogs- Came right to the front steps. (Almost came in the house…) Scary! Is trapping them allowed?

  4. From my kitchen slider, my cat and I watched a fisher cat loping through the woods (about 40′ away) right behind my house at 8 a.m. last week in York, Maine. Third time we’ve seen a fisher cat in this spot in the past 15 years. Beautiful animal!

    1. You would not say they are a beautiful animal if they had eaten 2 of your pet cats. They are very dangerous and are in many neighborhoods in Connecticut now.

  5. My husband and I seen a fisher run across the road, on March 17th, 2009, on the Highway 141, in Muskoka, Ontario.

  6. Yes I have one in my back yard, It keeps me up at night with its terrifying cries,Seen it many times,Must be a male cause its as big as a german sheperd dog. I can tell you it eats alot of rabbits, Because theres rabbit fur all over near its den. This fisher cat lives in a den dug out in the side of a hill in my back yard. I live in Auburn,Mass.

  7. Just heard the unmistakable cry a few minutes ago in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. And I think I saw it running through our yard, about 20 feet away from our house around midnight two nights ago. Well, it might have been a black cat, but I doubt it – it was too long to be a cat.

    What kind of trap would work? And what would the humane society do with it?

  8. Neighbor in Billerica saw one last week. We live along the Shawsheen River and often hear it’s cries.

  9. Thank goodness for the internet! Heard screeching in my front yard tonight and thought it might be a fisher cat so I googled the sound. Yup. Glad I found this site. Glad it wasn’t the neighbors being murdered! Needless to say, the dog is NOT going out tonight.

    1. Oh Bea I was awakened to the same sound at 4 am……I am an animal lover and have two chihuahuas. So as my husband kept saying it’s a wild animal I was insisting I was gonna save a neighbors scared little dog in the woods behind our house… I too thank god for the Internet and googled the sound to confirm he was right. Had to reply since after reading your blog I couldn’t help but laugh hysterically after reading it! Love your sense of humor! happy New Year! And boy I have been cautious letting our little ones out but no more late night ” wee wee” runs for them!
      Sue 😉

  10. watched and listened a fishercat slowly killed a grey squirrel last night at 3am in the morning in burlington VT. it was on a branch about 20 ft high and based on the squealing of the squirrel that lasted forever and the almost growl and hiss of the fischercat it was jarring. i am almost sure that is what is was..i have heard this before yrs ago in provincetown ma. i shined a flashlight into the tree and saw two close set green/yellow eyes glowing at me, and an animal the size of probably a mink in a greyish brown. the branches and leaves shook up and down as they fought, the would got still for a bit then start up again with the sinister growl and almost gutteral low pitched clicking sound..eerie……

  11. hampton falls nh. the 1:00 and 2:00 a.m. wake-up calls from a fisher have again begun this week setting off my three corgies. Last year I did see one atop a compost pile across the way in an open field but closely boardered with thick woodlands, The animal did not seem at all shy by my presence. Indeed the screech is earie at first.

  12. We had two fisher cats in back of our house Friday, May 28th, in Salem, NH. The screeches may have been a mating call. The sounds were very eerie. We are keeping our cats inside at night.

  13. Definitely had one right in the pine tree next to the house.
    I seriously believe one of our local squirrels or something was being murdered. I can’t believe the growl coming from the thing. It sounded louder than a Rottweiler. Those noises seemed to be straight out of Hollywood !
    The most unnerving thing that’s happened to me in ages.

  14. I live in Tamworth, NH and hear fisher cats a lot. At first I thought it was a fox after its prey, but then I heard what a fisher sounds like and it was the exact same cry. My neighbor across the street said he saw a fisher carrying a fox as it crossed his yard. I have seen fox chasing my neighbors cat across their yard before. This time it was a fox in the fisher cats mouth crossing the yard.
    I have a big male black cat and he has been trained to come in before dark, much to his dislike. He may stay out all night two or three times a year and we never know if he is going to show up the next morning or not. So far we have been lucky.

  15. Rascal are you sure your sound is on and turned up while you are watching the video. Make sure you haven’t turned the speaker off. The same thing happened to me tonight as I was watching the video. There is no sound at first but then as the video plays further, you hear the fisher. Try it again and good luck.

  16. We’ve had a fisher living in the adjacent woods here in Truro since last fall. The screeching can be heard almost every evening from dusk. (I’ve never heard it during the daylight hours.) This past winter …and again during that heavy pollen this spring….he left very clear tracks on a boardwalk here. Prior to his arrival we had a colony of about 12 chipmunks on the property. Not one chipmunk left now.

    Coincidentally, the NYTimes had an article a few days ago about the return of the wolverine to one of the Rocky Mountain states. The wolverine is a slightly larger cousin to the fisher…just as tenacious and aggressive.

  17. Also, I would be surprised if trapping a fisher is legal nor would I ever attempt to try to capture a fisher. They are very aggressive.

    Google the video \injured fisher\ to see a wounded baby fisher found on a trail. Even with what seems to be a broken leg he does his best to attack a golden retrievier and its owners. And this from a small fisher!

  18. We have a fisher cat living in our yard. It was preying on turkeys in our neighbor’s yard today. We are keeping our new baby kittens indoors!

  19. we think our cat (mingtoy) was taken by a fisher cat last week, she was 4 years old and we miss her very much. can’t seem to keep our other cat indoors he is alot faster than mingtoy so we can only prey he makes it through the night my duaghter also heard what she thought were screams the other night. now i can tell her that it was a fisher cat

  20. have a fisher on the other side of my inground pool here in Exeter…would like to trap him/her as my cat cannot go out……I see him during the daylight hours running away if he sees me….how would you trap one?…Have-a-heart with what for bait??

  21. I have lost 19 Guinea fowl to Fisher Cats in the last 2 months in Pawlet, VT…silent hunters, I lost 17 in one night and 2 others on 2 separate occasions in broad daylight. I hear their screetch in the woods at night, occasionally.

  22. we saw a fisher cat driving home from the Deerfield Fair last night. It was crossing the road in Deerfield in a wooded area. my cats were fighting one night last year and the sounds were more then a cat fight and I always wondered if they somehow fought off a fisher together. I don’t know if it is possible because I have heard how intensely vicious fishers are. I have seen my cat viciously attack a dog that came to our door right after I had my baby. she was very protective during that time. She is very smart and follows simple directions too. she and her daughter are great hunters. every single mouse that has tried to get into our house has been caught. probably though it was something else they fought off.

  23. Saw a Fisher this morning at 7:35 she/he walked within 25ft. of me before it knew I was there. I was in the Lowell/Dracut state forest bow hunting. It was not very big must be part of this years litter. Scamperd part way up a tree and then right back down and walked off. This was the first fisher I have seen around here although I have seen many more in the western part of the state.

  24. Interesting site! Me and my wife saw a fisher up a tree at about 8:30 AM a week and half ago (middle of March). We’re in Maynard, MA (next to Concord and Sudbury). We were out in some woods at the edge of the Assabet National Wildlife Refuge. At first I could just see it’s head. It looked like a little brown bear, but then we saw his body. Very cool. We were walking a couple of dogs, who never noticed him. They walked further up the path, and I just hung out at the base of a large tree. He didn’t seem to notice me. After about 5-10 min he came down the tree, maybe twenty or thirty feet away, and scampered off in the other direction. I was just a “tiny” bit nervous as he came down, remembering stories of fishers and their agressiveness. Still, pretty cool…

  25. I’m in Peterborough,NH On July 23rd I heard the viscious hissing-huffing sound of a Fisher Cat in the woods beside my house. Then I saw a slim young Bobcat lope out of the woods along the edge of my lawn. He was exhausted and unable to really run. As the Bobcat entered the woods on the opposite side of the lawn I mimicked the Fisher sounds each time it called out. I’m rather good at it as I hear a lot of Fishers. I kept this up until the Fisher seemed to move away and back into the woods. I hope I stalled the Fisher long enough for the Bobcat to make a full escape.

  26. Ok, believe it or not, I saw a fisher cat in Provincetown, Ma. In the front lawn coming through the hedges about 2:30 in the morning. Right off Commercial Street near the Boatslip. The first thing I thought was who was the nutjob that brought a pet ferret with them to Ptown….then I realized it was much too big to be a ferret.

  27. Neighbor just told me that my cat was cornered by a fisher cat at 3AM the other night … she’s not going out at night again no matter how persistent she bugs us to go out.

    Northfield, NH

  28. Just saw one today! Out for a walk with my son in the Fall River/Freetown Bio-reserve in a wetlands area, it was crossing a dirt road that we were on. What a beauty, black fur, came out of swampy area, saw us ran away down the road and went in the swamp on the other side. This was late afternoon in an area just lately opened to the public. This section of the forest had been closed for about 100yrs.

  29. Found this website after hearing horrifying cries on Thanksgiving night outside Kansas City, MO (farmland/woodlands in Kearney, MO). What we are hearing very closely matches the sound samples on this site . . . but I find no references to this species finding their way this far into the midwest. Anyone ever hear of the fisher cat being a MO resident??

    1. Yes! My parents own a 200 acre farm in Keoltztown, MO. They have set up a feeder down in the woods that is hooked to a motion sensored camera device. They haven’t gotten a good picture yet, but they are certain that there is a fisher cat lurking around. They have heard its signature screeching more than a few times at night. A neighbor up the road has also heard it at 2:00 AM while smoking a cigarette on the front porch. My mom contacted the Missori Dept. of Conservation and they said that it was not possible to see a Fisher cat in MO since the creature mostly resides in the northern states.

  30. We just realized the critter we have been seeing is a fisher cat, confirmed by a neighbor. We have lots of woods where we are sure it has set up a den. We have 2 cats that love the outdoors but we do not want to let them out. We think it is a female because it s small and do not want her to have her babies here. Cant we set a trap? I think we have the right to protect our pets and our woods from these carnivors.

  31. Fisher crossed the road, directly in front of me, going into an undeveloped wooded area of Indianapolis, early March 2011.

    Fisher crossed to den in abandoned “gasholder” building in Oberlin, Ohio7:30 pm April 6, 2011.

    1. I live in South Central Kentucky and last night definitely heard the screams of a Fisher Cat. Our local game warden never even heard of them, let alone know if they have made it into this area. I would say they have!! The dogs and horses were going crazy when the animal was screaming!

      1. Live in SC KY also. Heard a horrible screaming sound outside my window that scared me to death. My husband and I went out to investigate and it ran out from under our porch. Didn’t know what it was at the time but I definitely think it was a fisher cat. It looked and sounded like it anyway.

  32. We live in Westerly R.I. about a week ago my wife heard a noise outside and called me upstairs it sounded exactly like the audio I listened to on this website.About 4 years ago we lost our cat and my neighbor had a rabbit that had been killed,I found only the rabbits head in his yard after being taken out of the cage.Yesteday we were coming home from the beach and when we pulled into the driveway we saw a large fisher cat running down our driveway,I know for sure it was and my wife also,we have three children and I am not taking this do you go about trappng a fishercat correctly.

  33. I Live in Brentwood NH and I have had many sightings of fisher cats in our wooded back yard. Most recently we have a female that has made a den in in a log pile. Not to worried, they have never bothered us before other than the terrible screeching early mornings. I have a large German Shepard but the fisher doest not seam to be bothered by that either. Fisher is spotted by our pool often think it is looking for water. Beutiful crtters, not to worried , she can stay for now, great for rodent control.

  34. I believe there is a Fisher Den about 15 feet from my house and under my house (large hole dug under porch.) I spotted it running across the yard last week. Found a carcass, of what appeared to be a large rabbit or rodent, 2 feet from the den site. Will animal contol do anything? I have 2 small dogs and a small ShepX. Concerned.

  35. I was not sure how one of my girls (hen) was killed board day light and I only 50ft away. Never saw a thing. Tonight I saw a fisher cat looking at my side door and on the other side of the door was the other hen, locked up and very safe. That animal zoom through the air over a pile of junk in a split second. No animal has a chance against that killer. Now I know fisher cats are in Ashfield. I cannot let this hen out as the fisher is hunting daylight and with people around, and it knows there is one left.

  36. Last march i was hiking up mt. Washington via tuckermans. We stopped to have lunch at a lean too at hojo’s when i heard something behind us in the trees. I took a look and aprox 5 feet above me was a fisher looking down at me. First time i had seen one that close in person. Didnt seemed too frightened. Def a cool looking animal

  37. ever since the fisher cats came onto my land from up north things have been all topsy turvey!! the cows been giving sour milk and all night long the screeching keeps me and my kin awake ! its horible! ol’ granpappy says he aint heard screams like these since he was in the war of northern aggression ‘course that was a long time ago but let me tell you these screechin fish cats scare the livin bejeezus out of me and the missus, sure i been keeping my shoes out in the henhouse like they say ya ought to do to keep them fisher cats away but it aint workin. they been comin up and eatin scraps offin our table at supper time, if this keeps up were gonna have to load up the old jallopey and head out Californy way try to start a new life for ourselves. ill die before that day comes. them fishers can try to take my 40 acres but theyll have to get through me and my boys first. god bless you all.

  38. I’ve lost a couple cats to fishers here in Milford NH. The only trap good enough for them is a leg trap, which of course I wouldn’t use.
    I once called the cops because I thought it sounded like someone was torturing an animal in the woods. It was fisher cats.
    I’ve seen them slither across my path while driving down the road. Fortunately for them they are too fast and my car is too slow.

  39. We blamed our dog for killing 3 pet geese, and a bunch of pet rabbits. The rabbits had all their heads bit off. We heard a baby screaming one snowy winter night and today I make amends to my dog (who has past) after 50yrs.

  40. I have a fishercat that wanders in and out of my shop. Has not bothered me and keeps rodents in check. I even set up a sort of house for it with a big box and some old packing blankets. The cat doubles as good security also. I’m in Northern NH and I’m sure there are more than we know about.

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