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In pursuit of fishers

I have always loved walking through the woods looking for wildlife. As a wildlife biologist, I get to do this a lot. Most of the time, I’m looking for northern spotted owls at night. But recently, I got to join Brent Barry, a research wildlife biologist with Oregon State University, to look for fishers – during the day!

Fishers are furry, forest-dwelling carnivores about the size of a housecat. A member of the weasel family, fishers are only found in North America. A small population lives in southern Oregon forests, although they once roamed across a larger part of the state, and Brent is involved in a fisher monitoring project located on the Klamath Plateau. Our goal was to check the traps he’d set, document known fisher den sites and retrieve the motion-sensing cameras that snap a photo whenever wildlife passes nearby. I had never seen a fisher in the wild, so I was supremely excited about the day.

Setting up a trap to catch a fisher.

In the photo above, you can see the live trap where we were hoping to find a fisher. Bait is used, and it smells terrible. Worse is a special scent that attracts fishers (and sometimes skunks, I’m told), but it is so strong that it’s usually stored in the bed of a pickup truck. It’s really gross.

After we finished checking the traps and none had fishers in them, I tried not to be too disappointed that we didn’t catch anything. We then met the rest of the crew and went to document known fisher resting and denning sites. This is important to document so we can begin to learn about fisher habitat needs. I work with many landowners who manage forests within the range where fishers live, and they want to know how best to provide fisher habitat on their forestland.

While out in the field with Brent and his team, I learned that fishers need multiple denning and rest sites within their home range. We found the site shown in the photo below and took all sorts of measurements to add this site to the collective database biologists are building about fishers. This den site had fallen over, as older standing dead trees, or “snags,” are prone to do. But it could still be used on the ground by a lot of different species, including fishers. 

Brent investigating a den site.

Next, we removed all the motion-sensing cameras that had been up all season. Biologists have gained a lot of information about fishers through these cameras. This includes their habits, the predators that eat them and even how they move their young. Forest managers and landowners can use this information to help provide the critical features fishers need on the landscape to survive.

I learned a lot spending the day with Brent, and I hope I get to go again! Since this field day, I’ve helped OFRI develop a publication, part of the Institute’s Wildlife in Managed Forests series, on fishers and Humboldt martens, a related species of forest carnivore. If this blog has piqued your interest in fishers, you can learn a lot more about these animals and ways to manage forests to provide habitat for them in this new publication. I invite you to download a copy here.

Fran Cafferata Coe

Cafferata Consulting

Oregon Forest Resources Institute contract wildlife biologist 

Teachers on tour

In the next two weeks or so, most Oregon schools will release students for the summer. For many kids, the summer provides a much needed break from the classroom. There really is nothing like Oregon in the summer. Having lived in New England, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles, I can tell you that I would take a beautiful summer day in Oregon over any of the best that these three places have to offer.  


Just because the kids are out of school, that doesn’t mean that teachers are off for the summer as well. Many teachers use the summer months for professional development, including continuing education, workshops and conferences.


As a leading natural resources education organization, the Oregon Forest Resources Institute takes advantage of teacher availability in the summer to organize an annual high school teacher tour. At the end of June, OFRI will host thirty high school teachers from across the state on a two-day tour with the goal of increasing teacher knowledge of mass timber construction.  


The teachers will tour mass timber buildings in the Portland area, visit the World Forestry Center, and learn about mass timber manufacturing, design and construction during educational sessions at Mt. Hood Community College. This tour is part of OFRI’s broader effort around the development and support of career technical education (CTE) programs and ensuring strong linkages between these programs and Oregon’s network of community colleges.  


These teachers don’t have to devote two days of their summer to learning, but they do so because they care about the students in their programs and want to be able to set them on a path for success. At OFRI, we look forward to this opportunity every year, and this year is no different. We are eager to spend time with these high school teachers and learn as much from them as they learn from us.


For the forest,


Erin Isselmann

Executive Director

Join us for the Oregon Small Woodlands Association annual meeting

Once again it's time to celebrate family forests at the Oregon Small Woodlands Association annual meeting. This year, OSWA, a member-based association that represents small woodland owners in Oregon, will hold its annual meeting June 20-22 in Corvallis. The theme for the three-day meeting, hosted by the Benton County OSWA chapter, is “Research, Policy and Practices for Family Forest Management.”

On Thursday, June 20 you can choose to tour Oregon State University’s new Oregon Forest Science Complex, the Hull-Oakes Lumber Co. mill in Monroe, or Georgia Pacific’s sawmill or Thompson Timber Co.’s sort yard and shipping operation, both in Philomath.

OSWA’s annual meeting program and awards banquet will take place on June 21 at the Benton County Fairgrounds in Corvallis. The full-day program includes speakers discussing fire, forest carbon, communications and the latest research on the marbled murrelet. Other activities include a silent auction and awards banquet for the OSWA Chapter Volunteers of the Year and the 2019 County Tree Farmers of the Year, among other honors.

The annual meeting will conclude with the 2018 Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year Woods Tour on June 22. Participants will visit Oakes Investment, LLC’s forestland near Monroe, which is managed by Don, Darrell and Dena Oakes and has been in the Oakes family since 1883. 

Please join us for an informative and fun meeting. Learn more about the event here.

For the forest,

Mike Cloughesy

Director of Forestry

It’s Wildfire Awareness Month

Although the spring rain has returned, the unusually high temperatures we saw in the first half of May gave us a potential taste of what’s to come for the summer wildfire season. Unseasonably warm and dry conditions earlier this month have already led to more than 70 fires across Oregon, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry, prompting county-wide burn bans in several parts of the state.

In anticipation of the start of fire season, May is dedicated to wildfire prevention and preparedness. During Wildfire Awareness Month, homeowners – particularly those who live near forests in the wildland urban interface – are encouraged to take action now to get ready before fire strikes. 

There are four key things homeowners can do to help defend their home against wildfire and keep their family safe:

-Roofs: Keep roofs, gutters and eaves clear of all leaves, pine needles and other flammable debris.

-Vegetation: Remove all dead vegetation for a minimum of 30 feet around the house and other structures. Prune trees and keep your grass short to keep fire on the ground. Maintain a five-foot fire-free area closest to the house using nonflammable landscaping material and fire-resistant plants.

-Access: For the safety of your home and firefighters who respond in an emergency, consider access for large fire trucks. 

-Planning: Put together a “Go Kit,” register for emergency notification systems, and make a plan for where your family will go and how you will stay in contact in the event of an evacuation.    

For more information about how to make your home, property and forestland fire-safe, check out these short, informational videos OFRI has produced:

How to make your home and property fire-safe

Making your forestland fire-safe

There are also many additional resources to help Oregonians prepare for wildfire season, including: 

Keep Oregon Green

Oregon Department of Forestry

Oregon Fire Marshal

With all signs indicating that we’re in for another intense fire season this year, it’s important for all Oregonians to do their part to help prevent wildfires.

Erin Isselmann

Executive Director

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