Outdoors notebook: Fishers doing well across state, locally
Fishers have come back in a big way.
Once native to the state, fishers — the second-largest member of the weasel family in Pennsylvania — disappeared in the late 19th or early 20th centuries. Given that they prey on squirrels, chipmunks and even porcupines, their disappearance long was blamed on large-scale logging that destroyed much of their forest habitat.
Today, though, their populations are expanding numerically and geographically, said Matt Lovallo, a biologist with the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
What's interesting is where the animals are turning up. Much of their spacial growth is taking place in “the small woodlots of suburbia,” Lovallo said. That's true not only here but also in other Northeastern states, he said.
Fishers especially are common in parts of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
Trappers took 341 last year, more than double the 152 harvested in 2010, when they became legal game. Sixty-seven came from wildlife management unit 2C, which takes in all of Somerset County and parts of Westmoreland, Fayette, Cambria, Indiana, Bedford and Blair. No other unit gave up more.
The commission will be doing DNA testing of 200 fishers trapped last season. The goal is to figure out where they originated.
West Virginia stocked fishers in 1969, and New York released others into the Catskills in 1979. The Game Commission released still more at six sites in northcentral Pennsylvania between 1994 and ‘98.
It's possible today's fishers are tied to all of those reintroductions, Lovallo said.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and Game Commission have completed a land-transfer agreement with Hanson Aggregates BMC Inc. to secure the long-term preservation of the 10-acre Cogley Island. It's located in the Allegheny River in Armstrong County near Ford City.
Hanson gave the property to the Game Commission as mitigation for potential environmental impacts related to commercial gravel dredging in the Dashields, Montgomery and New Cumberland pools of the Ohio River.
Parts of Cogley Island are seasonally submerged, but it's expected to provide waterfowl hunting and trapping opportunities.
Pennsylvania's Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is offering an environmental careers camp this summer.
Set for July 13-19 at Kirby Episcopal House and Chapel in Mountain Top, Luzerne County, it's open to students in grades 10 to 12. The camp is free, but only 20 to 25 students will be selected. Applications are due by April 15. For information, visit dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/ecocamp or call 724-865-7857.
Jack Lucas has been promoted to wildlife education supervisor for the Game Commission's southwest region. He replaces the recently retired Joe Stefko.
Lucas, a Scottdale native, worked as a wildlife conservation officer in Indiana County and most recently as a land management supervisor.