Forest Structure Matters for Fishers: Specialized Resting, Generalized Movement

Greg Howard
7th July, 2024

Forest Structure Matters for Fishers: Specialized Resting, Generalized Movement

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • The study focused on Fishers in the Northern Rocky Mountains of Idaho and Montana
  • Fishers need large, mature trees for resting and denning but use different habitats when foraging or moving
  • Fishers prefer dense canopy cover for resting and are more flexible with habitat when moving
Understanding the habitat needs of wildlife is crucial for effective conservation efforts. A recent study by the United States Forest Service[1] sheds light on the habitat selection of Fishers (Pekania pennanti), a species known for its reliance on large, mature trees for resting and denning. However, this study delves deeper into their habitat use when foraging or moving within their home range, an area that has received less attention. The study addresses a critical gap in wildlife conservation by examining how the habitat needs of Fishers vary depending on their behavioral state. This is significant because previous research has often overlooked the variability in habitat requirements based on different activities, such as resting versus foraging. For instance, while it is well-documented that Fishers depend on mature trees for resting, there is limited understanding of their habitat preferences during other activities. To explore this, the researchers used electronic tagging and tracking (ETT) to monitor the movements of Fishers in their natural environment. This method allows for the collection of in situ data, providing real-time insights into the animals' behavior and habitat use. The study utilized hidden Markov models (HMMs) to analyze the tracking data, a statistical approach that can predict latent behavioral states while accounting for the serial dependence in the data[2]. This method enabled the researchers to distinguish between different behavioral states, such as foraging and moving, and link these states to specific habitat features. The findings revealed that Fishers exhibit distinct habitat preferences depending on their activity. While large, mature trees are essential for resting and denning, Fishers also utilize different habitat types when foraging or moving. This highlights the importance of considering behavioral state when assessing habitat needs, as different activities may require different resources. This study builds on previous research that emphasizes the role of behavioral ecology in wildlife conservation. For example, a systematic review of the literature found that certain behaviors, such as dispersal and foraging, are commonly considered in conservation efforts, while others, like learning and social behaviors, are often overlooked[3]. By focusing on the foraging and movement behaviors of Fishers, the current study addresses an underutilized intersection of behavior and conservation, demonstrating the potential for improving management strategies by incorporating a more comprehensive understanding of animal behavior. Moreover, the study's findings align with research on habitat heterogeneity and its impact on population stability. A study on British butterfly species showed that heterogeneous landscapes, which offer a variety of suitable habitat types, are associated with more stable population dynamics[4]. Similarly, the current study suggests that Fishers benefit from a diverse range of habitat features, which may help buffer against environmental changes and support more stable populations. In summary, the United States Forest Service study provides valuable insights into the habitat needs of Fishers, emphasizing the importance of considering behavioral state in conservation efforts. By using advanced tracking and statistical methods, the researchers were able to uncover the nuanced habitat preferences of Fishers during different activities, contributing to a more effective and informed approach to wildlife conservation.

WildlifeEcologyAnimal Science


Main Study

1) Fishers (Pekania pennanti) are forest structure specialists when resting and generalists when moving: behavior influences resource selection in a northern Rocky Mountain fisher population

Published 6th July, 2024

Related Studies

2) Classifying movement behaviour in relation to environmental conditions using hidden Markov models.

3) A systematic survey of the integration of animal behavior into conservation.

4) Heterogeneous landscapes promote population stability.

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