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Olympic Fisher Reintroduction Project: Progress Report 2008-2011
 
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Olympic Fisher Reintroduction Project: Progress Report 2008-2011

Category: Threatened and Endangered Species - Recovery Plans

Date Published:  2012

Number of Pages: 18

Author(s): Jeffrey C. Lewis, Patti J. Happe, Kurt J. Jenkins and David J. Manson

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:

This progress report summarizes the final year of activities of Phase I of the Olympic fisher restoration project. The intent of the Olympic fisher reintroduction project is to reestablish a self-sustaining population of fishers on the Olympic Peninsula. To achieve this goal, the Olympic fisher reintroduction project released 90 fishers within Olympic National Park from 2008 to 2010. The reintroduction of fishers to the Olympic Peninsula was designed as an adaptive management project, including the monitoring of released fishers as a means to (1) evaluate reintroduction success, (2) investigate key biological and ecological traits of fishers, and (3) inform future reintroduction, monitoring, and research efforts.

This report summarizes reintroduction activities and preliminary research and monitoring results completed through December 2011. The report is non-interpretational in nature. Although we report the status of movement, survival, and home range components of the research, we have not completed final analyses and interpretation of research results. Much of the data collected during the monitoring and research project will be analyzed and interpreted in the doctoral dissertation being developed by Jeff Lewis; the completion of this dissertation is anticipated prior to April 2013. We anticipate that this work, and analyses of other data collected during the project, will result in several peer-reviewed scientific publications in ecological and conservation journals, which collectively will comprise the final reporting of work summarized here. These publications will include papers addressing post-release movements, survival, resource selection, food habits, and age determination of fishers.

Disclaimer

The information contained in this progress report is unpublished and preliminary in nature. Users are cautioned to carefully consider the provisional nature of the information contained herein. The contents of the report may not be published without permission of the authors. Any use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

Background

Historically, the fisher (Martes pennanti) occurred throughout much of the coniferous forests of Washington. However, the fisher was extirpated from Washington within the last century, largely as a result of historical, unregulated trapping and loss of forests in older age-classes at low and mid-elevations. A status review completed in 1998 by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW; Lewis and Stinson 1998) documented these findings and prompted the listing of the fisher as a state endangered species by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in October of 1998. The fisher was also listed as a federal candidate species by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service after the proposed listing of its west coast population as endangered was deemed warranted but precluded by higher-priority listings (U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2004).

Following the listing of the fisher in Washington, WDFW developed a recovery plan for the species (Hayes and Lewis 2006). Because of the extirpation of fishers, the lack of nearby fisher populations to support recovery through natural recolonization, and the past success of reintroductions elsewhere, the recovery plan identified reintroductions to three recovery regions of the state (Olympic, South Cascades, and North Cascades) as the primary strategy to recover the species in Washington. Recovery efforts throughout much of the fisher’s North American range have relied heavily on reintroductions and the fisher has proven to be one of the most successfully reintroduced carnivores (Berg 1982, Powell 1993, Breitenmoser et al. 2001, Lewis et al. 2012). WDFW began planning a fisher reintroduction to the Olympic recovery region as a means to begin restoration of the species in Washington (Hayes and Lewis 2006, Lewis 2006).

A reintroduction feasibility study was completed in 2004 by WDFW and Conservation Northwest, a non-profit conservation organization. The study concluded that fisher reintroductions to the Olympic Peninsula and to the Cascades of Washington were biologically feasible (Lewis and Hayes 2004), and that the most suitable location for a reintroduction was within Olympic National Park (ONP). Biologists with ONP had long been interested in the status of fishers in the Park, and ONP joined the reintroduction partnership with WDFW and Conservation Northwest. WDFW and the National Park Service (NPS) developed a reintroduction implementation plan (Lewis 2006), and an environmental assessment/reintroduction plan (National Park Service et al. 2007) pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act. With the approval of the environmental assessment and reintroduction plan by the NPS, the reintroduction was initiated in the fall of 2007.

The goal of the Olympic fisher reintroduction project is to reestablish a self-sustaining population of fishers on the Olympic Peninsula. The reintroduction of fishers to the Olympic Peninsula was designed as an adaptive management project. The project incorporates research and monitoring of released fishers as a means to evaluate reintroduction success, investigate key biological and ecological traits of fishers, and inform future reintroduction, monitoring, and research efforts. WDFW and ONP are the co-leads for the reintroduction efforts, while WDFW, U. S. Geological Survey (USGS) and ONP are the leads for the research and monitoring program associated with the reintroduction. This report provides a preliminary summary of progress made during the fourth (final) year (December 2010 – December 2011) of the reintroduction, monitoring, and research project. Summaries of previous year’s accomplishments are available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/fisher/.