Saturday, November 22, 2008

Hardley ever seen Critters of the North Coast.

The first two photos are Martens, the second two photos (at the bottom)are Fishers. But of course you knew that, didn’t you?

“A Fisher is a bigger, stronger, darker, and browner version of its cousin, the Marten. The Fisher has the same general long and low–slung weasel-like body shape as the Marten, but it’s larger and stockier, with thicker fur and a flatter face.”

The Marten that we have around the Eel River drainage weighs about two pounds for the female and about three pounds for the male. The fisher weighs from four to fifteen pounds and the male is up to twice as large as the female. Both the Marten and the Fisher live in, and indeed are highly dependant, on old and rotten conifer forests. Forests with lots of bugs and little scurrying critters, complete with rotting logs tender shoots and abundant food. In other words, (To steal a phrase from Bush…See he is good for something) In other words, a complete and healthy bio-system, as opposed to a clear-cut forest. It would be interesting to know how many trees could be selectively cut without interfering with the health of the complete forest. I’m sure that anyone would agree that one tree could be removed without much harm. I wonder why they don’t do studies about how many trees could be removed without harming complete biodiversity. We need a few trees to build Fred a house, but we will still need houses for the Marten and the Fishers.

The Martens tend to range in the higher elevations of the conifer forests and like to scurry around in the snow and hunt for mice and critters around the edges rocks and rotting logs, under the snow. They like to pounce from above, they actually make it look like fun. One of the things that I have noticed in most all of the photos of a Marten; the little guy always has a dirty face, with stuff stuck all over it like he just rooted up a rotten log. The Fishers like to range in the lower portions of the old growth forest down near the cricks and streams. Maybe that’s why they call them Fishers, because they live by streams, but they don’t actively fish like an Otter does. They will eat anything if they get hungry enough, they will even eat rotten fish when pressed for food. That’s what I call hungry! They have been know to eat house pets up in Canada.

The Fisher have voracious appetites, they are known to eat porcupines. They attack from underneath, and work on the nose and the belly. It takes them about a half hour to wear them out, and wound the porcupine to the point that they just roll over and give up. Then the Fisher enjoys his nice plump, high fat, high energy food.

Both the Marten and the Fisher eat Flying Squirrels, in fact they even raid their dens, The bastards! They can climb trees just like a squirrel, their hind feet turn around backwards, and they can scamper up and down trees and logs, like they were on flat ground.

The pioneers would trap Marten and Fisher for their hides. The pioneer and the Martens had a lot in common, if you were in their way, or tasted good, you were dead. I wonder what Martin stew tasted like. The pioneer was the end of the Martin and Fisher on the north coast. When the pioneers started to move cattle and sheep onto the north coast, there was a very concerted effort to eliminate any form of predator, or even the fear that their might be a predator. If an animal killed a cow or a sheep the pioneer rancher would lace the carcass with strychnine; The ranchers little helper. Strychnine killed bears, coyote, mountain lion, bobcat, marten, fisher, squirrel, rats, and mice, any thing that ate meat was dead. Even more than you know it killed Indians, and competing ranchers. Yep, strychnine the pioneers little helper. But, that’s a different story. What is important for you to know is that there was NO meat eating animals left on the north coast, except a few rats and mice, and they were held at bay. Also, ranch dogs were saved. I think that's the reason that the old breed of ranch dogs that we have here are so smart. The smart dogs, that minded good, were told to stay away from the poisened meat and they did. The dumb ones sneaked away and ate the meat anyway. Those dogs helped to prove Darwins theory.

By all accounts, the Martin and the Fisher were gone. So, if we have any here now, they came from someplace else. It causes me great wonder to think about where they might have come from. Do you think that humans would bring that kind of a critter back? If so what would be the purpose? I mean other than the fact that they are cute.

The resident expert on Mustelidea (Martins and Fishers) in southern Humboldt is “Man Who Walks in the Woods”. His friends just call him “Woods“. He showed up here with rest of the newcomers, and immediately started telling us what was wrong with the logging industry. He found many “rare and endangered plants and animals”. Being the suspicious person that I am, I went about finding out, “Who the hell this newcomer was”, and why he is so ashamed of his family. It turns out that his Name is Robert Sutherland, and his father is a PHD and a Nobel Prize winner. Okay, so that threw the “ashamed of his family” out the window, but I kept an Eye open just in case. But it turns out that he is a pretty credible and thoughtful person. But I’d bet he knows something about the re-introduction of the Marten and the Fisher. And, I would bet that he knows that the Marten and the Fisher have been a bigger killer of the flying Squirrel than the logger ever was. Why isn’t there the outcry against the Marten and fisher? What they do to forest critters is nothing short of genocide. The fact that the Marten and the Fisher could be a bigger threat than the logger to the oh-so-rare Spotted Owl doesn't seem to concern them... Huh?

Martens are from the family Mustelidae, and the genus Martes The genus first evolved up to seven million years ago, during the Pliocene period

P.S. “Why can’t we all just get along?” Rodney King



Indie said...

I first heard of the marten and the fisher when I worked at Trees Foundation. The two little endangered forest dwellers were mentioned in the grants and literature that I read. When I first saw their names, I thought they were birds.

Thank you for writing about all these mammals of the redwoods. It is fun to learn more about them. I hope they are coming back.

And if you really want to know how many redwoods can be extracted while still maintaining biodiversity, there are professors at HSU in the Natural Resources Management and the Forestry departments who can answer your question. But I wonder if profs from the two departments would have the same answer?

oldmanriver said...

Well, I eat my entry on another thread. I did not see this little critter, but saw the darker version, the fisher...
It was a little larger than a large otter, body a bit different, and the rear legs clearly designed more for land than water.
Thanks for correcting my memory, and I look forward to telling my other witnesses that we blew the ID. Martens and fishers are very different.
Getting older and reaching back for memories clearly involves some fog-clearing exercises.
Hope this doesn't blow my credibility for my Bigfoot smelling post!

Ernie Branscomb said...

Good question Indie.

I don't trust the opinion of anyone that gets paid to have one, but just like everything else I want to hear that opinion. I’m more like the farmer, the fisherman, the rancher, the logger or anyone else that lives off the land. Somewhere in the middle of biodiversity there should be a human. It seems like that factor is always left out.

The other thing that has always bothered me, is with all of these high paid scientists studying what is happening here, why have the people that have pretty nearly learned everything the hard way, and has seen how it all fits together, never been asked?

The people that really cared got left out in the war between the Corporate Lumberman, and the people hanging in the trees. It looked more like “made for tv” than reality to me. Some of us still can’t believe what happened to our Eel River Canyon.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Old man River, You are every bit as credible as me.

The whole purpose of this blog is to tell stories, to bring out "Bullshistory". And now we have a new division "Natural Bullshistory". Most tall tales have some basis in fact. Some where back there in the past. The thing that I like about getting together and telling stories are what you just proved. If you get enough stories together the truth starts to glow in the center of them all.

Just like you, I see things that I want to know about, and I have lived here a long time. Some things are starting to glow in the middle for me.

Thanks for commenting.

spyrock said...

i wonder how come the native americans never made it on the endangered species list. i guess it depends on whose making up the rules and how it will profit them.
my mom was involved in something like this. they had a teacher who owned a lot of land who gave it to the county schools when she died. most of it was cattle grazing land but near a recreational man made lake but it wasn't considered to be worth much. then a group contacted the trust and wanted to build a golf course on it. my mom asked me if that was a good idea and i told it was because i had been playing golf and it seemed to be catching on locally. so they built a golf course. later on, the state wanted to build a university somewhere. the trust decided to offer them land surrounding this golf course. they were picked and all hell broke loose. they found fairy shrimp living in puddles out there in springtime and somehow they were an endangered species even those those puddles stretch from one end of the foothills of the great valley to the other. but that was just the losers trying to get this place disqualified so they could get the school built in their town. to make a long story short, the golf course was already there, so they built the school on the golf course. imagine all those lumberjacks up there getting laid off due to a fairy shrimp. a spotted owl sounds a lot more dignified.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Spyrock your intuition amazes me.

I really don’t mind things being protected, and I really don't mind progress. The only thing that I mind is "rape and plunder hell bent for leather" or "dead stop in the water".

Where do we go to find honest reasonable people anymore.

Anonymous said...

If our new version of bigtimber behaves sustainably as they sorta pledge, I think you will see the pendulum swing from both those extremes will quiet down. I suspect a whole lot of those honest and reasonable people do live here but the visible extremes get the notice.
One sign of the prescence of those good people in a community is the number of volunteering and non-profits and donorism. We are a rich little community by that standard.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Thanks Anon I hope you are right, but what can we do if we are wrong. We can't go through this again. We need to keep paying attention, and demand that it NOT happen again.

oldmanriver said...

So, for the record, the fisher siting occured in the late eighties when I lived a little south of where the Devoy Grove used to be.
Plenty of wilderness across the river to the west, but he came down the hillside and by us like he had just crossed 101, 271 and was on a mission. Didn't pay us any attention.

Indie said...

I wish I could find someone around here (McKinleyville) who likes to tell tales of the history and natural history of the area. It would be a fund addition to the newspaper.