Fisher Cats on Cape Cod

Today it is widely known that fisher cats inhabit the Cape, but nearly a decade ago there was much skepticism about their existence here. I have never seen a fisher here, ever, but I would love to call one in sometime.

Below are a couple of posts from an old blog of mine about the first reports of fishers on Cape Cod:

From 2005:

Fisher Cats on Cape Cod?

I have lived on Cape Cod for 30 years, and have never heard a noise like I did a couple weeks ago. It sounded like a combination of a wounded bird and a bad power steering pump. Being an avid outdoorsman I knew it was some kind of animal, but what was it?

After talking with friends, we figured out it must be a fisher cat, a creature that is not native to Cape Cod (at least in the last 30 years). Like the coyote, which was never around when I was a kid, apparently the fisher cat has made the Cape it’s new stomping ground.

According to my research fisher cats eat, rodents, squirrels, house cats, rabbits, and raccoons. Anything that eats raccoons must be pretty tough. They are also famous for their ability to successfully hunt and kill porcupines.  One of the very few other animals to prey on porcupines is a close cousin of the fisher, the wolverine.

Apparently the sound my friends and I were hearing is the fisher’s mating call according to Mass Wildlife. The fisher mates during March/April.

From 2006:

Presence of Fisher Cats on Cape Cod confirmed by Sandwich Roadkill

There have been reported sightings of fisher cats on the Cape for more than two years, but there has never been any evidence to prove their existence. The discovery of a dead fisher on Route 130 in Sandwich confirmed their presence.

On Cape Cod, they’ve been mostly suburban legend, with sightings reported for nearly two years. But there has never been any confirmation that the critters had made their way across the Cape Cod Canal, according to Thomas French, assistant director of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.

Sandwich police Officer Bruce Lawrence saw what looked like a large cat or small dog at the side of Route 130 near the Massachusetts Military Reservation. He suspected it might be a fisher, but called animal control officer Timothy Houlihan to be sure. Houlihan brought the dead animal, which had been struck by a car, to Cape Wildlife Center in West Barnstable where experts there got their first look at Cape Cod’s newest species.

“It’s the first time we’ve had actual documentation,” said Judy Ellal, a rehab manager and veterinary technician. “We’ve had sightings, but no photos to prove they exist here.” Based on the size of the fisher and the good condition of its sharp teeth, Ellal suspects it was about 1 year old. She said it weighed 11 pounds and was 23 inches long, including a 15-inch bushy tail.

Wildlife experts say with an already growing fox and coyote population, it’s another reason to keep cats and small dogs safely indoors at night. They don’t believe there is any threat to small children, however. “It’s a fair assumption you’re not going to have toddlers running around the woods at night,” Ellal said, noting that fishers are nocturnal.

Fishers don’t attack dogs, but can defend themselves against larger animals if they’re cornered, French said.

The discovery confirmed what Peter Trull, a wildlife specialist and middle school science teacher, has been saying for several years – fisher cats are here.

Fisher cats were nearly eliminated from the state because of extensive land clearing in the 1860s, French said. Now they are returning and they’ve moved quickly from northern and western Massachusetts over the past 10 years, he said. The state Web site specifically mentions Cape Cod as one of the areas where fisher cats are not found, but French said that will be updated.

Cape Codders won’t be running into fisher cats, though. Even in forests heavily populated with them, sightings are rare, he said.

Beavers and the northern raven are the next species that could return to Cape Cod, French said. Bear and moose have been making comebacks in the western part of the state and they too are slowly headed this way, he said.

But don’t expect to run into one in the Shawme Forest any time soon.

“It’s going to be a long time – decades and probably never – before a moose or bear crosses the canal,” French said.

Here is a video from Stow, MA showing a fisher scavenging the site of a deer carcass:

What does a fisher cat screech sound like?


Fisher Cats on Cape Cod — 17 Comments

  1. Today 2/28/2013 I had a Fisher Cat cross in front of my truck – no more than twenty feet away heading west from Eagle Pond towards Little River I was just getting on Putnam Ave from my own neighborhood 6:36am. I am an avid outdoorsman hunting or fishing one or two days a week even during the winter. FYI Thanks Ted Barnicle

  2. Group of women this morning walking all are positive they saw a Fisher Cat cross in front of them at about 6am. They googled the beast after their walk and their first feelings were confirmed.

  3. Got one harassing my dog eating it’s food in the shed she sleeps in. In Forestdale. Trying to trap it now. 9/13/13 – more to follow

    • Saw one two weeks ago dead on route 6 one hundred yards past exit three….Next day it was gone…Three years ago got a male Fischer in Marstons Mills..11.5 pounds….Now March 2014 there is a very Large Cat in Barnstable..Foot prints are 4″ long… least 100 pounds

  4. Live in Brewster near Smith Pond. I’ve been hearing a strange screaming sound for the past 2 nights, and had no idea what it was. After talking to my neighbor, I learned that there is a Fisher Cat in the area. My neighbor had seen it.

  5. Same thing , was driving through the Mills bout 7 in the mornin, crossed over the road Infront of the truck I slowed down to a creep and watched this thing I thought was a huge red fox Infront of me disappear in the woods , was frickin awesome, huge bushy tail threw me for a loop never see or heard of one on the cape

  6. Saw a fisher cat just a few hours ago. Was parked behind the flea market on Cranberry Highway across from Benny’s waiting for son to get done working. Truck was backed up to building facing rail road tracks. Dark out but there are some lights on back of building. Saw something walking down tracks, shadow looked like dog, or something. When was directly in front of truck I put on headlights and got perfect view. Full headlights, three to five seconds. Looked like a combination cat / raccoon or cat / bear. Two and a half feet to three feet long. Big tail. Foot to foot and half tall. Looked on Internet and found picture. Exactly what I saw.

  7. I saw one the other day at the end of Seaview Ave in Osterville. We just had showed up around 730am to work in a yard and heard something in the trees. Then the crows and birds went crazy like someone left a trashbag full of food in the woods. We hear something fall through the branches and out comes a 3ft long black squirrel standing 18 inches tall. Looked it up on the phone right there and it matched most of the fisher cat pics I saw. Must have been going for the birds, pretty crazy looking animal glad I wasn’t trimming those bushes.

  8. I and a neighbor while walking saw a Fisher Cat yesterday March 14, 2014 in East Harwich near Hawknest State Park and Crowell Sand Pit. At least two to three feet long. It was moving parallel to us about 100 to 200 feet.

  9. Early last year I spotted a Fisher in the woods just off of Thacher Shore Road in Yarmouthport. Including tail it was over three feet long.

  10. 5 of my 6 chickens have been killed in 2 weeks, in Sandwich. I believe it may well be a fisher. Whatever it was, no real signs, but it climbed a 5ft. wire fence. Didn’t eat all the birds, just killed them. Ruled out coyotes.

  11. 10:pm Taunton Field street…. Raynham Ma there was a fisher cat in out yard 7/8/14
    eating seed and ? in the am just small bones found

  12. Heard much screaming and saw what appeared to be a family of 3 fisher cats crossing Loriing Ave in West Dennis @ 11:00 pm on 8/26/14.

  13. Walking on Barley Neck Road in Orleans at 8:45 this morning (Sept. 13, 2014) i saw in the distance, a dark weasel-like animal in the middle of the road. I had my golden retreiver with me. the animal watched us for a minute, not particularly fearful, and then ran down a side street near the intersection of Barley Neck and Briar Springs. Im thinking it was a fisher cat.

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