Fisher (Pekania pennanti)

Photo provided by the Mount Rainier National Park

The fisher is a forest-dwelling mustelid native to North America. Unfortunately, the fisher is another mustelid whose name is often misspoken as a compound of another species. You’ll often hear them misleadingly called “fisher cats”, when they have no relation to felines.(1)

The fisher was previously placed with the martens in genus Martes, until DNA analyses suggested a number of differences and evolutionary relations, and it was given its own genus, Pekania.(2) The fisher is a tactician that knows how to handle porcupines(3), and is more brutish in its ways as well as bulkier and larger than the true martens of genus Martes.

Its name is misleading, given that the animal seldom hunts fish. However, it’s possible that ”fisher” is derived from the French word ”fichet”, which means ”ferret”.(4) The fisher mainly feeds on small mammals, birds, insects, nuts, berries and carrion.


Size: 90-120 cm / 35-47 in (males), 75-95 cm / 30-37 in (females)
Weight: 3.5–6.0 kg / 8–13 lb (males), 2.0–2.5 kg / 4–6 lb (females)
Lifespan: 10 years
Range: Northern United States and Canada.
Conservation Status: Least Concern

  1. About FishersMass Audubon. Retrieved September 2,2018.
  2. Koepfli, Klaus-Peter, et al. “Multigene phylogeny of the Mustelidae: resolving relationships, tempo and biogeographic history of a mammalian adaptive radiation.” BMC biology 6.1 (2008): 10.
  3. Coulter, M.W. (1966). Ecology and management of fishers in Maine. (Ph.D. thesis). Syracuse, N.Y.: St. Univ. Coll. Forest. Syracuse University.
  4. Powell, Roger A. “Martes pennanti.” Mammalian Species 156 (1981): 1-6.

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