The Fiery Fisher

By Georgia Sparling | Oct 05, 2016
Artwork by: George B. Emmons

By George B. Emmons

As a new member of The Mattapoisett Land Trust, to start on their walks I decided to explore the largest parcel of their 700 acres that is called Old Aucoot District, conveniently just a quarter of a mile up Prospect Street from my new home.

Driving in, I was very impressed with the appearance of the parking area clearly identified with an impressive roadside sign, and also welcomed by the informational bulletin board in the kiosk at the head of the trail. The pristine path leading in was clearly defined in direction but also diversified through a natural habitat for viewing wildlife.

Among the multiple signs were the unmistakable tracks of fisher, the largest member of the weasel family with males measuring three feet in length including the tail and about a foot in height, but rarely easily or clearly identified being so wary and wild and fast moving. The fisher is the only predator other than the great horned owl that can and does regularly kill a porcupine and live to tell the tale. Consequently, a fisher has the reputation of being ferocious, aggressive and willing to attack anything that crosses it’s path.

So does the fisher deserve it’s reputation as a thoroughly mean critter? Like the wolf it might be said to be a victim to a human phobia called a theriophobia, which refers to our instinctive fear of the beast within an otherwise normal wild animal. The same might be said for human overreaction responsible for killing harmless snakes. The most common unfortunate human encounter with a fisher is accidentally coming too close to their den, when like any wild creature they maternally defend with a vengeance that leaves a lasting impression.

It is unlikely that you will ever encounter a fisher even on a casual afternoon stroll on a wildlife trail so lucrative as the Mattapoisett Land Trust, but neighbors tell me they are indigenous to this area. So we all might remember that in spite of a fiery reputation, all a fisher really wants from humans, like any wild creature, is to be left alone, so give them the wide berth they so richly deserve.

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