Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Pot-grower's poison taking toll on rare fishers

Study shows that illicit rodenticide use poisoning elusive carnivore on public and community lands
August 2012. A new study shows that imperilled fisher populations are being poisoned by the use of anticoagulant rodenticides (AR) on public and community forest lands in California-probably those used illegally by marijuana growers.

The researchers looked at two distinct fisher populations: one occurring on tribal, private, and public lands in north-western California and another within the Sierra National Forest in central California. Results of necropsies showed that of 58 fishers tested, 46 of the animals (79 percent) were exposed to one or more of the toxic ARs, and four had died directly from AR toxicity.
Fishers are likely exposed to AR when eating animals that have ingested it prior. They may also be drawn to it by bacon, cheese and peanut butter "flavourizers" that manufacturers add to attract rodents. Distribution of the poisoned fishers indicated widespread contamination of fisher range in California.
Fishers in significant decline
Members of the weasel family, fishers were once widely distributed throughout North America's west coast but have incurred significant population decline and extirpation from portions of their former range. Populations inhabiting Washington, Oregon, and California have been designated a Distinct Population Segment (DPS) and declared a candidate for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Study co-author and WCS Scientist Sean Matthews said, "Fishers play a vital role in the forests of the Sierra Nevada mountains and the Pacific northwest. With a body the size of a house cat and the disposition of their larger cousin, the wolverine, fishers keep forest rodent populations in check and are one of the only predators with the tenacity to regularly prey on porcupines. As fisher populations declined, they took refuge in the last remaining portions of mature forest in the Sierra Nevada and coastal mountains. Now a new threat has emerged in these remaining refuges."

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