Skip to main content
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, North American Mammals

  Carnivora · Mustelidae · Martes pennanti

Search the Archive
 • Species Name
 • Family Tree
 • Conservaton Status
Collections
 • Skulls
 • Bones and Teeth
Field Guide
 • Map Search
   Including search by
     • Location
     • Ecoregion
     • Species
     • National Park
 • About Maps
Glossary
Teacher Resources
About the Site
Smithsonian Institution
Copyright Notice
Privacy Notice

* PDF reader
available here

(opens in a new window)
 

Martes pennanti

Fisher

Order: Carnivora
Family: Mustelidae

Image of Martes pennanti
Martes pennanti - dark, winter coloration
Click to enlarge this image. (72 kb)

Conservation Status: Least Concern.


The Fisher is a forest-loving predator that eats anything it can catch, usually small-to-medium-sized rodents, rabbits, hares, and birds. It also eats carrion. Fishers are among the few predators able to kill Porcupines. They do it by biting the face, where there are no quills, until the animal is too weak to prevent being rolled over and attacked in the soft underbelly. Fishers are active by day or night. They tend to be solitary and defend territories. They were once hunted for their lustrous, chocolate-brown fur, and the range of this species has been reduced greatly in the United States. They are still hunted in some places, but some states and provinces of Canada list the fisher as endangered, and the population has recovered from extreme lows in the last century.

Also known as:

Pekan, Fisher Cat, Black Cat, Wejack, American Sable

Sexual Dimorphism:

Males are larger than females.

Length:

Range: 900-1,200 mm males; 750-950 mm females

Weight:

Average: 3,500 g males; 2,000-2,500 g females

References:

Erxleben, J.C.P., 1777.  Systema regni animalis per classes, ordines, genera, species, varietas, cum synonymia et historia animalium.  Classis I, Mammalia, p. 470. Wegand, Leipzig, 636 pp.

Links:

Mammal Species of the World (opens in a new window).

Mammalian Species, American Society of Mammalogists' species account * (opens in a new window).
* PDF reader available here (opens in a new window).

Distribution of Martes pennanti

Image of Martes pennanti
Martes pennanti - spring/summer coloration
Click to enlarge this image. (144kb)

Image of Martes pennanti
Martes pennanti and Erethizon dorsatum - the Fisher is one of the Porcupine's few natural predators
Click to enlarge this image. (97kb)

Image of Martes pennanti
Click to enlarge this image. (143kb)

Image of Martes pennanti
Martes pennanti (Fisher), MidAtlantic
Click to enlarge this image. (174kb)

Image of Martes pennanti
Martes pennanti (Fisher), Adirondack Mountains
Click to enlarge this image. (397kb)

 
end of text