Contact(s): Nathan Roberts, DNR furbearer research scientist, 715-490-9345; Shawn Rossler, DNR furbearer ecologist, 608-267-9428
MADISON - Trappers harvested 1,474 river otters and 546 fishers, according to preliminary harvest data for Wisconsin's 2016-17 river otter and fisher season.
Preliminary data combines both state and tribal harvest information. Final harvest information should be available by mid-June. River otter and fisher harvest is distributed across the entire state through the allocation of harvest permits by management zones. River otters were taken in 72 counties and fishers were taken in 42 counties during the 2016-2017 season. Tribal harvest accounted for 22 fisher and 13 otter.
"The distribution of harvest has changed as fisher range has expanded to include southern portions of the state while otters have been well established statewide for a long time." said Shawn Rossler, furbearer ecologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "This past season Marathon, Dunn, Chippewa, and Clark saw the highest level of fisher harvest. Otter harvest was highest in Price, Taylor, Oneida, Polk, and Marathon counties.
The department's furbearer population monitoring and research efforts are led by Nathan Roberts, DNR furbearer research scientist.
"River otter and fisher are both members of the weasel family. We rely on detailed harvest records, track surveys, and valuable information gained by examining the ages of animals that are trapped," Roberts said. "Due to their generally secretive nature, we really rely on information gained through highly-regulated and monitored trapping seasons."
Harvest goals are developed annually in consultation with tribal and partner agency representatives, and individuals from key user groups. Management zones can be closed early, if needed, to ensure that harvest is within approved goals. In addition, Wisconsin leads the nation in the development and utilization of best management practices for traps to promote humane trapping and to minimize the capture of non-target species.
Trappers must report river otter and fisher harvest within 24 hours and receive an in-person registration tag from a local conservation warden within five days of the month of harvest. These species can only be taken by trapping and only with a species-specific trapping tag allocated through a quota system. Trappers successful in harvesting a fisher must provide the fisher's lower jaw to the department for scientific examination to estimate the age. Otter carcasses are collected very three years. Department staff uses this information to monitor population status and trends.
For more information regarding furbearers in Wisconsin, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for keyword "furbearers."