Calgary Zoo working to bring furry creatures to U.S. state where they disappeared
Fishers — a species of weasel-like animals — were eradicated in one U.S. state but the Calgary Zoo is coming to the rescue.
The forests of Northern Alberta are home to the small furry carnivores but they were historically found across Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Washington State.
For the past several years, the Calgary Zoo has been helping American conservationists by sending Alberta’s fishers to repopulate Washington State, where the creatures haven’t lived regularly since the mid-1900s.
“The fisher is a mid-sized carnivore that most people don't even know about,” said Axel Moehrenschlager, who is the zoo's director conservation and science.
Fishers, who are about the size of a house cat, are one of the few carnivores who eat porcupines.
Their lustrous, glossy fur is highly valued to fur trappers who kill them and use their fur to make pelts and coats.
“Their beautiful fur made them so desirable for trapping to sell that fur, they were basically trapped to extinction,” Moehrenschlager said.
The creatures were eradicated in Washington State for decades but since 2015, the zoo has sent 75 fishers to the state to begin re-populating the region.
Most recently, six of them —five females and one male — were released in Washington's North Cascades National Park.
They were being trapped in Northern Alberta and checked by veterinarians at the Calgary Zoo, before being taken across the border. But more are on the way.
“This will continue to 2019 and even beyond that. So we want to make sure that enough fishers are going into Washington that are surviving and breathing sustainably,” Moehrenschlager explained.
He added that “animals have a function in the ecosystem and when you lose them that's something that's bad for nature.”
To help conservationists keep track of and monitor the fishers, the animals have been fitted with radio transmitters as they familiarize themselves with their new home south of the border.