There could be a different kind of creature lurking in the woods in Michigan's lower peninsula and the DNR is hoping recent sightings will help confirm the resurgence of the fisher.
Although there have been regular reports of fishers in the Lower Peninsula, the Department of Natural Resources had not been able to confirm fishers south of the Mackinac Bridge until a recent sighting by an Onaway couple.
According to a DNR report, Melissa and Nate Sayers of Onaway were out for walk in North Allis Township in Presque Isle County when they saw something odd.
"We heard the neighbor's dog barking at a base of a tree, and we saw a ball of fur up in the tree; we initially thought it was a bear cub," said Melissa Sayers. "Then it moved, and we realized it wasn't a cub!"
The DNR was notified of the sighting and was provided pictures. Local DNR wildlife biologist Jennifer Kleitch investigated the location where the pictures were taken and confirmed the photos were legitimate.
"This is very exciting, but we always want to be sure," stated Kleitch. "We treat every rare animal sighting very seriously, and we must have evidence we can follow up on and investigate to make a definite identification."
Historically fishers were found throughout both the Upper and Lower peninsulas, although by 1936 deforestation and unlimited harvest resulted in the species vanishing from Michigan. Beginning in 1961, fishers were reintroduced to the Upper Peninsula, and by 1989 the U.P. fisher population had recovered enough to establish a limited trapping season in the western U.P.
"It's great to see another native species return to parts of its former range," said DNR furbearer specialist Adam Bump. "Fishers are another species in Michigan that benefit from habitat management and science-based harvest regulations."
Now that fishers have been confirmed in the Lower Peninsula, the DNR would like to gather additional information. Those who believe they have seen a fisher in the northern Lower Peninsula, and have physical documentation (pictures, locations of tracks, etc.), are asked call 989-732-3541, ext. 5901.
Fishers are typically found in large forests, with a preference for areas dominated by coniferous trees. They have a very diverse diet, mostly comprised of small- to medium-sized mammals such as mice and rabbits, along with dead deer. Fishers also will consume a fair amount of fruits and nuts, and often are noted for being one of the few species that successfully prey upon porcupines, although porcupines typically make up a small portion of their diet.