Justin Hoffman

My Rare Daytime Encounter with the Elusive Fisher

It's taken many years of looking, but I finally found myself a fisher!

Spotting a fisher in the wild has been at the top of my bucket list for almost a decade now. As an outdoor writer and wildlife photographer, a deep fascination has been forged over the years with this solitary and mainly nocturnal mammal. Quite honestly, though, the search has been like finding a needle in a haystack.

The fisher, or some may call it a fisher cat, is a forest-dwelling creature whose range covers much of the boreal forest in Canada to the northern United States. A member of the weasel family, the fisher is closely related to the American marten, but at a weight range of 4 to 13 pounds it is much larger.

Agile in trees, the fisher spends much of its life on the forest floor - preferably close to a source of water. They are also one of the few animals that actively hunts and kills porcupines, in addition to their other main source of food, the snowshoe hare.

My first sighting of a fisher came on November 17, 2014, albeit captured on a trail cam:

I have captured fishers numerous times since then on my cams, and have tracked them in the snow, but had yet to see one with the naked eye. That changed on January 2 of this year.

Living in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, fishers are not uncommon, but seeing one is a rarity - especially within the city limits. They are extremely elusive, and for those that have spotted one, most times it is simply a fleeting glimpse.

The morning of January 2 was a cold but beautiful day. Having just finished an overnight shift, I decided to strap on the snowshoes (we had approximately two-feet of white stuff on the ground) and head out for a hike. Four hours in, and while following a well-beaten deer trail, something brown caught my eye in the crutch of a tree. Could it be? You bet! Finally a fisher!

It climbed twenty-feet up the tree upon spotting me, and after being on alert for five or so minutes (complete with tail twitching) it settled down and proceeded to drift off to sleep. I watched in amazement at this 'mythical' creature, photographing and filming it for prosperity.




And here's the video footage I shot:

For a wildlife photographer and avid outdoorsman, finding this fisher will be a milestone for 2017. Having it pose like it did, during daylight hours and in a treedefinitely icing on the cake. It really doesn't get much better than that.

The day after my fisher find, I was contacted by the Metro Ottawa newspaper for an interview. Word had spread across social media, at least here in the city. You can find that article here.

Who knows when I'll see my next one. Perhaps I won't. But you can bet my eyes will be scanning the woods each and every time I'm out on an adventure.

Have any of you had an encounter with a fisher? Let's hear your story!

Images courtesy of Justin Hoffman

To see more of Justin's wildlife images, check out his website here or subscribe to his YouTube channel.