In the late spring of 2020, I happened to look out the window in our family room that overlooks our backyard, which extends to a clearing in the woods behind our home. The forest is bordered with a rockwall that an overabundance of squirrels and rodents call home, and this year seems to have an overload of them. I glanced out the window and saw a dark “critter” wrestling with our large suet feeder that the coons had knocked down in the clearing.
I realized that the critter was indeed a fisher! The past winter had shown us quite a few [fishers] in videos from our game cam that we put out, but all videos were at nightime.
Later that day, I emptied the suet feeder and threw the remaining suet on the ground for whatever would make use of it. I hang suet in the winter mostly for the woodpeckers, but all birds will come to it as it’s a good source of energy for them. Come spring and warmer temps, I no longer put it out as the suet would turn rancid and not be good for consumption.
In the following weeks, during the daytime — randomly without a routine — I would see the fisher returning. One afternoon she came onto our back lawn, not 15 feet from our home and laid on the lawn for over half an hour eating black oil sunflower seeds. Fishers are carnivorous mammals and their teeth reflect that, so you have to realize how hard it was for her to consume the black oil sunflower seeds. She needed nutrition, and as I watched her, I realized she indeed was a mom fisher.
Female fishers are not as large as the male, and this mom, from tip of her nose to tip of her tail, was maybe 3 feet long and very thin. Mom fisher continued to come alone for about a month, then one day, as I watched down by the rock wall, I could see her two young ones trailing behind her. For about a week she would hide them behind a pile of wood down by the rock wall fence. They, being like most kids, did not mind mom and would follow her up to our back lawn where mom would lay in our extra large bird bath. She would very quickly shoo them back down to the woodpile.
Soon after that she would bring them up to the back lawn with her. They would take turns on the really hot days laying in my extra large bird bath. They did not share it well. As they would romp around the backyard, they would keep up a constant chatter among themselves, somewhat like a ferret would sound like. I was so thrilled and thankful for this opportunity to observe the interaction between mom and the two young fishers.
At the time I was taking all these pictures, I was safe inside my home, window open and was about 15 feet above where they would come out, but they sometimes would be directly under my window, so close that with my big lens, I could not get pictures! I really think mom fisher tolerated me taking pictures out of her need to provide for her young. She could without a doubt hear the camera shutter click, and she would at times look right up at me.
Squirrels and other rodents are a large part of the fisher diet. That is why I think they kept coming to our yard. They paid us visits right up until mid-October. I think by then the young ones had reached an age that they go their separate ways, as fishers are solitary predators and only together to mate, then they go their own way. I have only a few nighttime videos of the fisher in the past few weeks.
The fisher has quite the reputation of being a very fierce predator, and they are said to have a blood-curdling scream at night. I cannot tell you the countless nights well after midnight that I have stood at my open window in my family room and only sounds I hear is a family of barred owls. Recently we have had two extra large coons hanging out in our backyard at night, and my game cam shows the solitary fisher giving the backyard to the two coons. So in my opinion, perhaps there is a different side to the fisher story.
They are one of the smallest predators in the forest and are solitary hunters, so they have to be fierce to survive. A few last interesting facts about the fisher is that they have “semi-retractable claws” that allow them to be able to climb trees, and they also have very mobile joints in their back legs that allow them to turn 180 degrees so they can maneuver some sharp turns, and that helps both on the ground and when they climb trees.
Our neighborhoods and homes are now where a lot of wild animals once [had] their homes, so I want to co-exist with them all.
This story is a part of an ongoing series in which photographers share their favorite stories about photographing Maine wildlife. Stories and photos can be submitted to Act Out editor Aislinn Sarnacki at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the email, include your full name and town of residence, as well as the written story and photos you wish to be considered for publication.