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VIDEO: Weasel-ly Spotted: Endangered Fisher Weasels Return To The Wild

Once trapped to the brink of extinction in Washington, environmentalists are building up the population of the cat-sized hunters. 

Video shows fishers, which are members of the weasel family, being released in Olympic National Park as part of a two-decade effort to restore the native species to Washington State.

The footage was posted online by the National Park Service with the caption: “Some very welcome newcomers arrived at Ozette last week…!” Lake Ozette, the largest natural lake in the state of Washington, is in the northern part of Olympic National Park near the Pacific coast.

Federal, state, tribal and partner biologists on Nov. 5 released five fishers from Alberta, Canada, into the lush, coastal forest near Lake Ozette, the National Park Service said on the website of Olympic National Park.

“Fishers — a member of the mustelid or weasel family roughly the size of a house cat that feeds on rodents, hares and even porcupines — were extirpated from Washington by the 1930s due to over-trapping, poisoning and fragmentation of their forest habitat,” the park service said.

“This latest fisher release is part of an ongoing partnership led by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the National Park Service, U.S. Geological Survey and Conservation Northwest to restore the elusive carnivores to Washington’s Olympic Peninsula and Cascade Mountains.”

A total of 90 fishers were captured in northern British Columbia and reintroduced to Olympic National Park and surrounding areas on the Olympic National Forest from 2008 through 2010, the park service said. “Fishers from British Columbia and later Alberta were then reintroduced to Washington’s South Cascade Mountains in and around Mount Rainier National Park beginning in 2015, and to North Cascades National Park and nearby areas beginning in 2018.”

A fisher runs into the forest after being released from a wooden crate near Lake Ozette in Olympic National Park in Washington State. (National Park Service/Zenger)

The park service said that “while the Washington Fisher Reintroduction Project met its goal in early 2020, releasing more than 250 total fishers across the Olympic and Cascade ranges with successful reproduction documented in both areas, project partners saw an opportunity this year to boost the numbers and genetic diversity of fishers on the Olympic Peninsula using animals live-trapped in Alberta.”

About 20 fishers are set to be released at locations around Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest this month and in December, including the first five near Lake Ozette last week.

The Ozette area was chosen “due to the ongoing partnership with the Makah Tribe since 2008 and the Makah Tribe’s continued research on the fisher population in the Ozette to Neah Bay region,” the park service said.

“Watching fishers return to the forests of the Olympic Peninsula is truly inspiring,” said Olympic National Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum. “As they scamper through lush ferns and back into our biodiverse landscape, you can tell they belong here and will enrich our natural heritage and support the overall health of this ecosystem.”

Edited by Judith Isacoff and Kristen Butler