Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program
FIA Project Y092290

    Fisher (Martes pennanti) Habitat Ecology in Pine Dominated Habitats of the Chilcotin
Project lead: Davis, Larry (Davis Environmental Ltd)
Subject: Forest Investment Account (FIA), British Columbia
Series: Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program
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 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, a radio-telemetry research project was initiated by Tolko Industries Ltd, Yun Ka Whu’ten Holdings Ltd, and BC Environment in 2005-06. Between 2005 and March 2007, funding from these partners resulted in 20 fisher being captured, radio-tagged, and monitored. Fisher monitoring was conducted using First Nation crews from the Ulkatcho and Alexis Creek Bands who identified 10 natal and 7 maternal denning structures over the two denning seasons. FSP funding in 2007-08 was used to monitor fisher through the second maternal denning period (April - June 2007) and collect habitat data from random locations in fisher home ranges. At this time, detailed habitat descriptions have been completed at all den sites and at 374 random plots in fisher home ranges. Further work in the 2007-08 fiscal year includes analysis on the use and availability of reproductive denning structures. Additional funds have also been secured to add more radio-tagged fisher during a third field season (2007-08). These new fisher will be monitored from December 2007 to the end of the fiscal year (March 31, 2008). FSP funding is required to monitor fisher through the third and final natal/maternal denning season of this project (April-June 2008), analyze data on habitat use patterns, 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.

Finally, this project will provide information on critical habitat features that is needed by the forest industry and government to ensure sustainable management of this resource. The project will provide strategies and targets for important habitat features that will help sustain fisher in managed landscapes.
Related projects:  FSP_Y081290


Executive summary (21Kb)

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Updated August 16, 2010 

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