Claire Corlett

Fish Food, Fish Tanks, and More
Return of The Fishers To the Washington Cascades

Return of The Fishers To the Washington Cascades


[ ENGINE STARTING, FLIPPING SWITCHES,
ETC.] Pilot: Olympia ground morning. Partenavia 357 … with Charile, southeast
bound… Tower: Runway 1-7, clear for takeoff. Marty: You want to head for 49 first. Jeff: Yeah, let’s head for her and then
get 51 on the way to 60. JEFF LEWIS HAS SPENT HIS CAREER TRACKING ALL
KINDS OF ANIMALS. BUT TODAY’S SEARCH IS SPECIAL LEWIS: We’ve been looking for
this one for a long time. ANIMALS THAT HAVEN’T BEEN SEEN IN THESE
MOUNTAINS FOR 70 YEARS. …AT LEAST, NOT UNTIL RECENTLY. [ sliding box out of truck] WHEN LEWIS STARTED BRINGING THEM BACK. LEWIS: “Who hasn’t done one?” LEWIS: “Can you stand back behind this line and watch the animal come out?” LEWIS: It’s about the size of an
otter. It lives in the forest. It’s a furry carnivore… ….a beautiful, charismatic, mid-size, somewhat chunky, weasel. … KNOWN AS THE FISHER. LEWIS: And you say fisher everybody
goes Kingfisher? Or are you talking about somebody with a fishing
rod? Or, what are you talking about? THE FISHERS LEWIS IS TALKING ABOUT ARE RARELY SEEN BY MOST PEOPLE. NOW HE’S PART OF A GROUP OF SCIENTISTS WHO WANT TO MAKE THEM A MORE COMMON SIGHT ACROSS WESTERN WASHINGTON—LIKE THEY WERE IN THE
1800S. BACK THEN, FISHERS RANGED FROM NORTHERN CALIFORNIA
TO BRITISH COLUMBIA. BUT SO DID FUR TRAPPERS. BY THE MID-1900S, WASHINGTON WAS DOWN TO ITS
LAST FEW, WHILE B.C. HAD FISHERS TO SPARE. LEWIS HELPED BRING FISHERS FROM CANADA TO THE OLYMPIC PENINSULA FIRST IN 2008. [ ooohs, aaahs, camera shutter] LEWIS: We ended up getting 90 that
we released there over three years. LEWIS: And that’s looking really
positive. IN 2015, SUCCESS IN THE OLYMPICS… OPENED THE DOOR TO A NEW RELEASE PROGRAM IN THE SOUTH CASCADE MOUNTAIN RANGE. BUT IT’S NOT AS SIMPLE AS RELEASING ANIMALS INTO THE WOODS. LEWIS: We’re putting them to the
test. How do they deal
with this “I just landed on Mars kind of scenario”? SO THEY EQUIPPED THEM WITH TRACKING DEVICES—AND
FOLLOWED THEM. LEWIS: We want to confirm especially
early on in a reintroduction that females are having babies. LEWIS: If there’s enough reproduction
that’s going to help make that a self-sustaining population. [Sound of plane engine returns] “If you look real close
you can see her running through the trees down there. Hahaha. I’m joking.” BY COMBINING BASIC RADIO TECHNOLOGY… AND LONG HOURS IN A PLANE, LISTENING TO STATIC… Jeff: thought I heard something… EVENTUALLY… LEWIS: You’ll hear the Beep,
Beep, Beep ( beep, beep, beep….) LEWIS: Wow we’re
getting a boomer now. Guess what that’s 88, son of a gun Woohoo, nice! ….. Oh, you already got her, you already
got her, that’s all you….. Jeff: K, hit me! Marty: 11, 10, 36, 46, point 38… [Marty reads coordinates] LEWIS: We can circle right around
it and then hit a mark on our GPS and get a very precise location for that animal at
that time. THEN LEWIS JOINS A TEAM OF OTHER SCIENTISTS AND TAKES HIS SEARCH TO THE GROUND. [Sound of crunch, crunch, crunch under foot] THEIR GOAL IS TO TRACK THE ANIMALS TO MORE
PRECISE LOCATIONS, AND SET UP MOTION SENSOR CAMERAS. IT’S ONE OF THE FEW WAYS TO DOCUMENT WHETHER
THE POPULATION IS GROWING. Tara Chestnut: “We’re closer than ever.” CHESTNUT: We had an indication that
one of our females was denning and we went out set up cameras for a two week period. Chestnut: So we’re about 80 yards from the potential den site that we are looking
for. Lilly’s den. Hopefully. LEWIS: She’s super close this way….. Hey, guys, I got her super close right over
there, she’s not far away. But she’s still moving a little bit. THE SEARCH CONTINUES UNTIL… LEWIS: Right here, right here. I just heard her and I have no idea where
she was parked. We might be able to track
her back to a tree here. ELISSA GORDON: We’ll try to find
a specific tree to focus on and set up cameras aimed at that potential den tree. THEY LOOK FOR TELLTALE SIGNS. LIKE SCRATCH MARKS ON THE BARK. FUR SNAGGED ON BRANCHES. AND OTHER CLUES. LEWIS: They love taking poops on logs. ELISSA GORDON: Wow, lots of hair on this one. GORDON: Somebody definitely spent a lot of time in this tree. AT THE TOP OF TREE, , THERE’S ANOTHER POSITIVE
SIGN: A CAVITY BIG ENOUGH FOR A FEMALE FISHER AND
HER YOUNG, BUT SMALL ENOUGH TO KEEP OUT PREDATORS. LEWIS: We tracked her right to this area. I didn’t see her go in and out of it. It could be a den site, it could be a rest
site, it could be a nice hole in a tree, but it’s worth checking out. that’s as good a spot as any. GORDON: We put some cameras that
are facing the tree to see if she’s coming in and out and we also put some cameras that
are facing outside to see if she’s in the general area. We’re hoping to get some clues. A MONTH LATER, THEY BEGIN SIFTING THROUGH
HUNDREDS OF PHOTOS. AND MOST OF THEM AREN’T MUCH TO LOOK AT. CHESTNUT: maybe it’s a
fissure maybe it’s a raccoon. it’s a black brown blob. THEY GET SHOTS OF MOVING BRANCHES, SQUIRRELS,
ELK AND EVEN A BOBCAT. BUT EVENTUALLY THEY FIND WHAT THEY’VE BEEN
SEARCHING MONTHS FOR. LEWIS: Yep. That’s the one. She’s coming down headfirst and in her mouth she’s got a really sizable kit. CHESTNUT: That’s a lot of of kit to handle for that mama. FOR MOST PEOPLE IT MAY LOOK LIKE ANOTHER BROWN BLOB. FOR THESE SCIENTISTS, IT’S THE FIRST BIT
OF HARD EVIDENCE SHOWING THAT FISHERS COULD SURVIVE HERE LONG-TERM. LEWIS: We’ve seen survival among the ones we’ve released. Now we’ve also got the documentation of reproduction. It doesn’t mean it’s ultimately successful,
but it’s a step in the direction that you really want. AND FOR THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST, A STEP BACKWARD
— TO A WILDER TIME IN ITS HISTORY.

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