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Local man spots animal rarely seen around these parts

Fishers are typically found in forest areas way north of Douglas County, including the boreal forest of Canada. (Contributed photo)

One morning a few weeks ago, Gerald Hoffman of Kensington observed a squirrel scurrying up a tree from his window. What he saw next was not so run-of-the-mill.

A large animal, approximately a foot-and-a-half in length, was after the squirrel. Hoffman believes he saw a fisher.

Fishers are members of the weasel family. They are comparable in size to domestic cats and have long thin bodies that ride low to the ground. The fur of a fisher is either black or brown, depending on the season.

Fishers are non-discriminatory predators: They will eat any animal they can catch and will eat carrion, as well. Their typical prey includes porcupines, birds and other small animals like squirrels, rabbits and cats.

They have been described as "mean animals."

What's unusual about Hoffman's sighting is his geographical location. Fishers are typically found in northeastern Minnesota and the boreal forest of Canada.

"Oh, I wouldn't say [they're] common," said Kevin Kotts, area wildlife supervisor for the Department of Natural Resources, in regard to fishers.

Kotts believes fishers are migrating from their typical habitat on their own.

Fishers are able to inhabit such a vast area due to the expansive forests in North America.

Because of over-trapping and damage to their natural habitat, fishers were threatened during the 19th and early 20th century. The species is now thriving.

Kotts doesn't advise approaching fishers as they are wild animals, though he noted no one has ever been hurt by one.

Although Hoffman was unable to reach a camera in time, he and his brother have no doubt that Hoffman witnessed a fisher that morning.