Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program
FIA Project Y081290

    Fisher (Martes pennanti) Habitat Ecology in Pine Dominated Habitats of the Chilcotin
 
Project lead: Davis, Larry (Davis Environmental Consulting)
Author: Davis, Larry R.
Subject: Forest Investment Account (FIA), British Columbia
Series: Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program
Description:
The Fisher (Martes pennanti) is a mid-sized carnivore that occurs in boreal and sub-boreal forests of British Columbia (Weir 2003). Fishers are currently on the provincial Blue list (vulnerable) and critical habitat requirements for this species are needed for sustainable forest management plans. This is especially true for areas of the species range being impacted by the current mountain pine beetle (MPB) epidemic which comprises the majority of this species distribution in BC west of the Rocky Mountains. Information on the long term effects of MPB and salvage harvesting on fisher habitat in pine dominated landscapes is required. Structural attributes that facilitate fisher foraging, dispersal, and reproductive output may be impacted. For instance, current fisher habitat ecology knowledge for British Columbia has identified large declining cottonwood trees as characteristic of maternal denning habitat (Weir 2003). However, in the Chilcotin region of central British Columbia, fishers appear to be abundant in spite of the relative rarity of this tree species (Weir 2003). Sub-nivean (below snow) resting sites associated with coarse woody debris are also important during periods of cold temperatures for fishers in other parts of British Columbia (Weir, Corbould, and Harestad 2004). It is currently unknown whether these patterns are true in the Chilcotin area. If so, the effects of mountain pine beetle management on availability and distribution of coarse woody debris (short and long term) may decrease fisher habitat quantity and quality. Given these effects, current habitat management guidelines may not be applicable in this area. These knowledge gaps hamper the ability of forest licencees to adequately manage for fisher habitat within the context of their sustainable forest management plans. Detailed habitat ecology information is required to ensure that habitat protection and management for fisher in these areas is appropriate. Forest managers need to determine if current stand-level management practices in use in pine dominated landscapes are sufficient to supply natal/maternal denning and resting sites for fishers. Knowledge of denning and resting requirements for this region will support revisions to the Identified Wildlife Management Strategy account for this species that better reflect these needs. This information will provide a level of certainty to licencees with respect to the timber supply impacts of stand-level habitat management for this species.
To help address this knowledge gap, the first phase of a radio-telemetry research project was initiated by Tolko Industries Ltd and Yun Ka Whu’ten Holdings Ltd in 2005-06. This phase resulted in the capture and radio-tagging of 16 fishers. Fisher were monitored commencing in January 2006 and through the natal and maternal denning season to July 2006. First Nation crews from the Ulkatcho and Alexis Creek Bands participated in the capture and monitoring of these animals. Of the 12 female fishers, 6 were identified using natal/maternal dens. Den sites were located and detailed habitat descriptions have been completed at all den sites. Funds have been secured for the second (2006-07) field season to add more radio-tagged fisher and continue monitoring fisher from October to the end of the fiscal year (March 31, 2007). FSP funding is required to monitor fisher through the second natal/maternal denning season (April-June 2007), collect habitat data from fisher home ranges in the 2007-08 fiscal year, and support extension activities in the 2008-09 fiscal year. This project addresses three priority information needs for fishers in British Columbia, as identified in a Provincial Fisher population science workshop held in October 2004 (Lofroth 2004). Knowledge of fisher habitat ecology in this region lacks the scientific foundation that exists in other part of their provincial range. This multi-year project will enable science-based sustainable forest management that will: 1. Address critical natal and maternal denning habitat for fishers in pine dominated habitats 2. Address fisher resting site habitat needs in pine dominated habitats 3. Provide information for habitat supply modeling to ensure that fisher habitat is maintained over the long term in pine dominated landscapes
Related projects:  FSP_Y092290
Contact: Davis, Larry, (250) 398-7353

    Deliverables:

Executive Summary (11Kb)

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Updated August 16, 2010 

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