The US Fish & Wildlife Service classified the species as a Distinct Population Segment in 2011 due primarily to genetic characteristics that differentiates the Northern Rockies fisher from all others in the U.S. A formal petition to the agency was submitted in September 2013 to seek protection for the imperiled species as “threatened” or “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act. When the agency failed to respond to the 2013 petition within the legal time-frame, groups filed a Notice of Intent in 2014 to sue the agency. The agency finally responded in 2016, and issued a finding that Northern Rockies fisher may warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act. In September 2017, the agency reversed course, and announced the species does not warrant listing as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
Once prevalent in eastern British Columbia, southwest Alberta and throughout eastern Washington, Idaho, Montana, northwest Wyoming and north-central Utah, scientists believe the medium-sized, forest-dwelling carnivore now only survives in small-density populations straddling the Idaho/Montana border.
The best available science suggests that the best habitat for fishers in the entire West is in the Clearwater Basin. Most of the best fisher habitat in the Clearwater is unfortunately roaded. There are some low-elevation roadless portions of the forest in the N. Fork Clearwater and Lochsa drainage. There is good fisher habitat in the Selway – Bitterroot Wilderness, too, but it seems the best core habitat is in the Lochsa. It is also believed that fisher found in North Central Idaho are genetically unique, as they have descended from fisher populations that have been in the area for generations, rather than, as previously believed, solely from fisher reintroduced to the region in the 1960s.
Trapping, predation, disease, road building, logging and loss of habitat, particularly old-growth forests, have led to the sharp decline of the formidable predator. Climate change could increase the frequency of forest fires in its range, possibly impacting its habitat.
Groups seek trapping ban in Montana – January 2019.
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