Cinnamon is my nighttime guardian. All night long she sits at her post on the counter, peering out the window into the darkness.
When something interesting happens, she wakes me up by jumping off the counter (thump) and running back and forth to the other window (scamper scamper) jumping up and down off that window ledge (thump, scrabble, thump). I can judge how exciting it is by how many things she knocks over in her haste to dash back and forth from one window to the other.
Last night something very interesting was happening. I heard her scattering things left and right. I also heard some odd thumping out on the front porch. But I assumed it was just the neighbor-on-the-other-side’s cat, who is very large, and who cruises by to check things out once or twice a year.
This morning I discovered a lot of interesting prints on the side of the big storage cupboard on my porch. At first glance I thought they were cat prints. Then I realized that A) no self-respecting cat would walk around with paws that muddy, and B) they were too large for a cat.
Upon examination I found that they could not possibly be cat prints. The toes are too long and narrow, the claw prints are clearly visible, some of the pad prints are crescent-shaped, and – most intriguing of all – each print has five toes.
There are a lot of possible candidates for animals rummaging around on my porch in the middle of the night. But the most likely candidate, given the evidence, is a fisher.
Fishers are basically very large weasels. If you have ever seen a ferret, a fisher is a super-sized version. They grow about three or four feet long and clock in at around five pounds.
Fishers are omnivorous and like many weasels they have a reputation for being quite fierce. They are one of the few animals that have worked out how to eat porcupines, for example.
Scroll down to the bottom of this page for a guide to animal tracks. It’s for the Catskills, but all those animals are represented out here, too.
Why was a fisher checking out my storage cabinet? Well, four days ago I set a bowl of cat food up there for about ten minutes (I feed the other neighbor’s cat in the mornings). I suppose a crumble of cat food may have gotten smeared there. Or the fisher might just have smelled that cat food was briefly present.
It’s a good reminder to keep all of your animal food secure, which I do. I’m pleased to note that the fisher was unable to get at all the chicken feed, which is right there, but is stored inside buckets and a big metal trash can.
Mind you, this all happened about fifteen feet from the coop where my chickens were slumbering peacefully. All you have to do is turn around to spot the run.
A fisher would love to make a meal of three plump hens. But I guess I built the coop (not pictured; at the back of that run) pretty well, because no one’s gotten in yet.
I find this sighting very personally validating, actually.
A few years ago I was out in the dark closing up the chicken coop when I heard, from the brush about two feet from my ankles, a rather fearsome guttural growl. I froze, and after a moment whatever-it-was ran away. It made a sort of two-part thump-thump thump-thump as it ran away, which put me in mind of a ferret, the way they run inchworm-style.
I went back inside and did some research, and had concluded that I’d had a close encounter with a fisher. This was based entirely on my ability to pinpoint and analyze animal sounds, which I myself have a lot of confidence in. I’ve always been very good with sounds, and I particularly pride myself on my ability to observe and note wildlife.
But when I told people I thought I’d been growled at by a fisher in the yard, their skepticism was obvious – which is why I never blogged about it until now. Because hello, I was right all along! And now I have the pawprints to prove it.