Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Wanda. Wanda Wonders, “What is a fisher cat?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Wanda!

If you’ve been WONDERing with us for a while, you may have learned a lot about cats. Maybe you read about big cats. You might know all about black cats or white cats. But have you ever heard of a fisher cat?

The fisher cat’s name is a bit misleading. It doesn’t fish for its food—at least, not as far as we know. And it’s also not a cat! Instead, the fisher cat is a type of large weasel. 

How large? Fisher cats, also called fishers, are about 32-40 inches (81-102 cm) long. Their tails add another 12-16 inches (30-41 cm) of length to their bodies. Females weigh 4.5 to 5.5 pounds (2-2.5 kg). Males are much larger at 8 to 12 pounds (3.5-5.5 kg). 

Where are you most likely to see a fisher in the wild? They only live in the forests of North America. You’re most likely to find one in Canada, but they’re also common in the northwestern United States and California. Fisher sightings are also becoming more common in eastern states.

If you do see a fisher cat, it’s likely to be just a fleeting glimpse. Their short legs keep them low to the ground, and they move quickly. They’re easily confused with other weasels or house cats. Fishers’ dark fur makes them even more difficult to spot at night. These critters are also great at hiding among bushy plants and the hollows of trees.

If fisher cats don’t actually fish for their food, then what do they eat? It turns out, these little animals are fierce predators. In fact, they’re one of the few creatures on the planet that eat porcupines. That’s right! Those prickly little rodents may not sound appetizing to you, but to fishers, they’re a feast. Fisher cats are also known to snack on mice, hares, squirrels, and other small mammals.

Fishers have also been rumored to hunt small pets, including—you guessed it—house cats. However, there doesn’t seem to be any solid evidence of this happening, and experts believe it’s just that—a rumor. People who study fishers say neither people nor their pets have much to fear from these animals.

In fact, throughout most of history, fishers have had more to fear from people than the other way around. The fisher cat population of Washington state was once wiped out by trapping and habitat loss. Today, they have been reintroduced, but protections against over-trapping are still in place. Fishers also have to watch out for larger predators, including bobcats, coyotes, and cougars.

The next time you’re strolling through a dense forest in North America, be on the lookout for a fisher cat. Their furry, round ears and bushy tails give them a cute appearance, but don’t get too close! Fishers are wild animals and should be left alone.

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