What do fishers eat? There’s only one way to know for sure

Fisher facing forward
A fisher is a carnivorous mammal related to a weasel. Photo courtesy of John Van Niel

A professor and his students collect data on the stomach contents of this secretive mammal for the state Department of Environmental Conservation

A scalpel in her right hand, Chloe Bliss begins cutting into the brownish-pink organ she holds in her left.

This is part of her job as a work-study student at Finger Lakes Community College. Her boss is Professor John Van Niel, coordinator of the college’s fish and wildlife technology program. The work entails studying the stomach contents of fishers, a carnivorous north American mammal related to the weasel.

These solitary animals are fairly small, weighing up to 14 pounds, and have long bushy tails. Trapping for fishers is allowed in the fall in most of New York state, largely in the Adirondacks, Hudson Valley and North Country, with a brief season in the Southern Tier.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) dropped off 500 frozen fisher stomachs at FLCC last year as part of an effort to gather data on New York’s fisher population. Fur trappers provided the carcasses so the DEC could study the teeth (to determine age), uteruses of females (to see how many kits they had) and the stomachs (to find out what they really eat).

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