The fishers are back, in Washington at least.

The first time I heard about fishers was when I was discussing a little-known Florida cryptid, the “cracker dog-killer,” with a friend from Vermont. They seemed like they could be related – stealthy creatures like slender, fast-moving wolverines. Fishers, unlike dog-killers, are well-known to science, as Pekania pennanti. And according to Science News, they’ve just been reintroduced to the state of Washington:

After 90 fishers were released in Olympic National Park from 2008 to 2010, the project turned its focus east of Seattle, relocating 81 fishers in the South Cascades (home to Mount Rainier National Park) from 2015 to 2020, and then 89 fishers in the North Cascades from 2018 to 2020. The animals were brought in from British Columbia and Alberta. The project concluded last year, when researchers let loose the final batch of fishers.

Baby animals are the key measure of success for a wildlife reintroduction project. As part of Washington’s Fisher Recovery Plan, biologists set out to document newborn kits as an indicator of how fishers were faring in the three relocation regions.

Before F023’s kit was caught on camera in May 2017, biologists had already confirmed births by seven relocated females on the Olympic Peninsula, where the whole project began. Two of the seven females had four kits, “the largest litter size ever documented on the West Coast,” says Patti Happe, wildlife branch chief at Olympic National Park. Most females have one to three kits.

[Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Jeff] Lewis is often asked, why put all of this effort into restoring a critter many people have never heard of? His answer: A full array of carnivores makes the ecosystem more resilient.

Happe admits to another motive: “They’re freaking adorable — that’s partly why we’re saving them.”

Once fisher populations plummeted, porcupines ran rampant across the Great Lakes region and New England. This wreaked havoc on forests because the porcupines gobbled up tree seedlings.

Hoping to keep porcupine populations in check, private timber companies partnered with state agencies to bring fishers back to several states in the 1950s and 1960s. Thanks to these efforts and stricter trapping regulations, fishers are once again abundant in Michigan, Wisconsin, New York and Massachusetts.

But in Washington, like most of the West, fisher numbers were still slim. By the turn of the 21st century, no fisher had been sighted in the state for over three decades.

As in the Midwest and New England, private timber companies in Washington supported bringing back fishers. Although porcupines are uncommon in Washington, mountain beavers — a large, primitive rodent endemic to the Pacific Northwest — fill a similar role in Washington’s evergreen forests: They eat tree seedlings. And fishers eat them.

Pictures and videos at the link. They are indeed “freaking adorable” – unless you’re a porcupine.