Thursday, August 25, 2005

Fisher Cat Blogging

The Ten Ring, almost by its own volition, has partially evolved into a coyote blog. However, the Ten Ring is still a gun blog, and there’s a gun connection here because it’s foolish to go out into a potentially dangerous world armed with only fingernails, teeth, and things we can pick up like coolers.

Predators have made a comeback in our forests and fields. They’re reproducing fast enough, and staying alive long enough that their ranges are spreading. They are moving back into areas where predators had once been exterminated. It’s a sign of a healthy ecosystem. They move into suburbs and urban areas because that’s where they easily find food and shelter. They're getting used to humans and seem to have little fear of us anymore.

Healthy urban predators present little threat to adult humans, but they do present some threat to our children and certainly to our pets. The animals aren’t to blame. They’re just being animals when they don’t consider a child or a pet as too very different from a rabbit or squirrel.

It fascinates me that urban animal predators are gaining a foothold in Massachusetts of all places. The state has done everything it can to disarm its citizens short of house to house searches. It can take about 100 days to get state permission to buy a gun. You think chemical defense is an option? You must get a firearms license to buy pepper spray even if you don’t want to touch a gun.

Meanwhile Massachusetts citizens are confronted by growing numbers of animal predators sometimes in their own back yards where we fend off animals with lumber. In the linked case, the coyote was rabid, but that underscores the need for effective self-defense.

It’s true that we have much more to fear from human predators than we do animal predators, but here again, it’s foolish to abolish weaponry. We humans invented tools to protect ourselves from hungry predators and to feed ourselves and to defend ourselves against hostile humans. Massachusetts and other governments are willing to give up the one advantage we humans have in nature, our tool-making ability.

That said; the newest urban or rather suburban predator that has shrieked into public consciousness is the fisher (called “fisher cat” in Massachusetts). The fisher is known for a scream that makes you swear you walked in on a child’s murder. Fishers have been sighted and heard in Boston’s northern suburbs and one was found in Brookline which is quite near Boston.

Fishers are large weasels in the same family as wolverines. They were almost extinct in New England because they’re forest dwellers. New England was once almost all cleared farmland, but has become reforested. As that happened, fisher populations rose and they’re finding homes in our suburbs.

Fishers are too small to be a threat to humans except maybe babies. To the best of my knowledge they don't attack humans, but are known as very efficient carnivores. They’re one of few animals that can attack and kill a porcupine. Fishers seem to have a special appetite for nice, juicy house cats and have been known to snatch them out of open windows.

So, fishers are one more urban predator to worry about. I keep my cat indoors and not just because of fishers, coyotes, dogs, and autos. My cat is also a predator and I don’t want him out killing birds (and if you’ve ever watched a cat kill a mouse, you’ll understand that humans aren’t the only species that sometimes kill for fun). I do know that if my cat was threatened by a predator, I would do everything I could to save him. That doesn’t mean I'll be grabbing a cooler or a piece of lumber to fight off a predator.

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