Threatened fishers on the brink of disappearing are now being poisoned by illegal pot farmers on public land.
A collared male fisher that was part of a study and tracked for most of its life was found dead in April, 2009, setting off a series of events that would begin to shed light on a new problem surrounding public lands in California.
When the mortality signal went off on the fisher’s collar and the deceased animal was picked up by a technician, the cause of death seemed to be a mystery. That is until a necropsy revealed that the fisher had died of acute rodenticide poisoning.
The answer of where the poison came from would soon become apparent.
First of all, fishers live in the deep woods and generally stay away from humans. Since the collared male in question was being tracked, it was certain that he hadn’t entered any area where people and their poison might be, so how had it died of an overdose of “rat poison?”
Craig Thompson, research ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service said “That was kind of the sky-falling moment. We had no idea what was going on”
The hard issue of pot growing on public land is anything but new. Now, on top of being a danger for people, wild animals like the fisher are losing their lives so illicit marijuana farmers can grow weed.
Thompson said “In the process of trying to defend their plants, they’ll actually ring the area with tuna cans with pure carbofuran mixed into the tuna, which is extraordinarily lethal, and they’ll just put them around the perimeter. These guys [are] living out here, so they don’t want bears or foxes out here messing up their camp.”
There’s no telling what other animals might be affected by this practice, but one thing is for sure: when you put “free” food out in the woods, some wild creature will take advantage of it, and fishers are no exception.
Maybe worse is the fact that this is public land where anyone, including families with children, can use and explore. With hunting, hiking, and general outdoor use, these lands are seeing an invasion that is undesirable on an epic level.
The good news is the attention received is causing a positive response. Over the course of 2016, fishers will be released into the Cascade Mountains in Washington and in Yosemite National Park in California. With the supervision that these particular animals will receive, the eyes in the woods will be many.
In the annals of conservation, whether it is game animals or natural resources, humans can be nature’s best friend or its worst enemy and the only issues standing between the fisher and success: human-caused dangers.