Plan will guide fisher management for next 10 years
Public comments accepted through March 21
The 10-year draft fisher management plan is out for public review and comment through March 21, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation announced. The draft plan describes the goals, objectives and strategies that will guide DEC's actions and decisions related to management of fisher populations in New York over the next 10 years (2015-25).
The plan advances two primary goals for managing fisher populations in New York:
•Maintain or enhance fisher populations in all areas of the state where suitable habitat exists.
•Provide for the sustainable use and enjoyment of fishers by the public.
"Fishers are a charismatic species that have been popular with the trapping community for decades," DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said. "Fishers have expanded their range into Central and Western New York and are flourishing in the forested landscapes in these regions. This plan will provide for the sustainable use of this resource while ensuring that fishers are around for future generations of New Yorkers to enjoy."
The fisher is a large, dark, long-haired member of the weasel family that inhabits forested and semi-forested land throughout much of New York and the northern U.S. Historically, their numbers declined sharply during the late 1800s and early 1900s due to over-exploitation and loss of forested habitat. Restoration programs, re-forestation and the regulation of trapping have allowed fishers to become well established and people have enjoyed sustainable harvest opportunities for this species since the 1950s in northern New York and the 1980s in southeastern New York.
In addition to trapping opportunities, many citizens have enjoyed observing these predators in their natural habitats across the state. Over the past 20 years, populations have expanded into Central and Western New York; sightings in these regions are now common.
The plan summarizes existing data on fisher populations and harvests and defines more specific objectives and strategies for each of the following fisher management zones: Northern, Southeastern and Central/Western New York. New York City and Long Island are excluded, because, historically, fishers did not exist in that region of the state and populations do not currently exist there.
A fundamental part of the plan is that fisher populations can generally sustain annual harvest rates of approximately 20 percent. Therefore, the plan proposes the following adjustment to current fisher trapping regulations, beginning in 2015:
•Reduce the fisher-trapping season from 46 days to 22 days in selected Adirondack Wildlife Management Units in northern New York, where harvests may be exceeding 20 percent and populations have declined in recent years.
•Establish a limited nine-day open trapping season, with a one-fisher seasonal limit, in selected WMUs in Central/Western New York to provide new opportunities for sustainable use of this natural resource.
Surveys by DEC staff in collaboration with researchers at Cornell University used trail cameras at more than 600 locations to document fishers are now well-established throughout the southernmost WMUs in this region.
The proposed changes to trapping regulations would remain in effect for at least three years and then be evaluated to determine if additional changes are warranted. No changes are proposed for Southeastern New York at this time, because the current regulations provide ample trapping opportunity, harvest rates remain below 20 percent, and populations are stable or increasing.
The draft management plan is available on the DEC website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/9357.html. The comment period on the draft plan runs through March 21. Comments may be submitted in writing to: NYSDEC Bureau of Wildlife, Fisher Management Plan, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4754 or by email to [email protected] (type "Fisher Plan" in the subject line).