Final plan reflects changes based on trappers' input and biological data; will guide fisher management for the next 10 years
The final fisher management plan addresses population fluctuations in different regions of the state while offering trappers an additional hunting season, the Department of Environmental Conservation announced today with the release of the adaptive management strategy.
DEC biologists developed the plan with input from trapping enthusiasts to manage population declines of fishers in Northern New York and population increases in Central and Western New York. The plan reduces the trapping season in the north by 16 days while establishing a new six-day season in the central and western parts of the state.
"The expansion of fishers in New York is a conservation success story and a testament to the importance of DEC's efforts to protect forest habitat and conserve wildlife populations," DEC Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos said. "The final fisher management plan incorporates the feedback from fisher enthusiasts. The proposed changes to promote the animal's sustainable management in the Adirondacks and Central/Western New York will ensure that fishers continue to thrive and future generations will continue to enjoy this fascinating species."
The fisher management plan is a comprehensive set of strategies that will guide the agency's efforts to maintain populations of the species for the next 10 years. The plan advances two primary goals for managing fisher populations in New York: to maintain or enhance fisher populations in all areas of the state where suitable habitat exists, and to provide for the sustainable use and enjoyment of fishers by both trappers and the general public.
Fishers, a member of the weasel family, can weigh between 3 and 13 pounds. Their diets range from small- and medium-sized mammals and birds to acorns, apples and berries. They are also one of the few known predators of porcupines, having been known to consume the entire animal, leaving nothing but a quilled hide and a few bones.
Historically, their numbers experienced a severe decline during the late 1800s and early 1900s due to over-trapping and loss of forested habitat due to unregulated logging and the clearing of land for farms. 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 since 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, and sightings in these regions are now common. Surveys by DEC staff in collaboration with researchers at Cornell University used trail cameras at more than 600 locations to document that fishers are now well-established throughout the southernmost wildlife management units in Central and Western New York.
The plan defines 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, as fisher populations have historically not existed in those regions of the state. The revisions made in the final plan for the Adirondacks and Central/Western New York will allow managers to accommodate trappers' desires while meeting biological objectives for a sustainable harvest. To meet this objective, the plan proposes the following adjustment to current fisher trapping regulations to begin in the fall of 2016:
•Reduce the fisher trapping season from 46 days to 30 days in select wildlife management units in Northern New York, with a season start date of Nov. 1 to address population declines in this area; and
•Establish a limited, six-day open trapping season in selected WMUs in Central/Western New York to provide new opportunities for sustainable hunting, as populations have expanded.
The proposed changes to trapping regulations will remain in effect for three years to allow for evaluations of these new regulations and 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 opportunities and populations are stable or increasing.
The management plan, and an assessment of public comment, is available on the DEC website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/9357.html. Proposed regulations to implement the plan will soon be released for public comment.