Posted by Ken Campbell December 19, 2008 0 Comment 598 views

Fishers are members of the weasel family, like otter, mink and martens. They are native to Washington, and the Olympic peninsula was once their home, but their population was sharply reduced by a combination of over-trapping and habitat destruction. Reduced to zero, actually.

They are back now though. There’s a State program currently underway to reintroduce fishers to the wilds of Olympic National Park. The goal, for the moment, is to bring the number of these cat-sized animals living inside the park and on National Forest lands up to 100. Fifteen new arrivals will be released at remote locations in the Elwha, Sol Duc and the Hoh this weekend, outfitted with radio collars and off to join others that were released a year ago. Initial results of the program are positive and hopes are high for a successful year.

And I’m happy for them, and the state, and the park. And I look forward to seeing one myself when I get back to the woods. (When I release myself back into the wild.) Still, I can’t help but wonder if these little guys are really the same item as the ones they are replacing. The ones that died out. Can we really go back? If you remake a group of animals this way and return them to the environment where their ancestors used to live… is that the same thing as a continuous, vibrant, undamaged population that has regenerated itself within its borders over centuries?

Maybe that’s not a question that should be asked right now. Maybe it’s time to cheer the fishers on, wish them the best and be happy that, in one little part of the world, the clock has been turned back just a bit. Maybe these furry pioneers are the first generation of thousands more to come. Maybe, in time, we’ll be able to see their offspring as another native species, truly indigenous once again.

I hope it all works out. For the fishers, and for the rest of us.

For more information on the fisher and the release program, check out Jeff Mayor’s story in the Tacoma News Tribune.

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