WCS North America

Fisher on Hoopa Tribal Lands

The fisher, a house-cat sized relative of the wolverine, is culturally significant to many native communities in the Pacific Northwest, including the Na:tinaxwe or Hupa people. The Hupa name for the fisher - 'ista:ngq'eh-k'itiqowh - translates as "log-along-it-scampers" The Hupa people revere the fisher for its agility and ability to live high in the trees of the coniferous forests of the Pacific Northwest. Despite its cultural significance, the fisher has suffered measurable population declines and a shrinking range in this region, primarily due to commercial fur trapping and habitat loss associated with logging. New threats are also emerging: anticoagulant rodenticides used on marijuana cultivation sites are having devastating impacts on fisher populations throughout its range. These threats are so great that the fisher is a candidate species for the California state endangered species list, and in October, 2014, the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced a proposal to list the fisher as threatened on the U. S. Endangered Species List.

In recognition of the fisher's cultural importance and the threats to its long-term survival, WCS and the Hoopa Valley Tribe initiated a partnership to collaboratively study the ecology of the fisher. Launched in 2004, the research seeks to uncover the habits of fishers living in the 144 square mile (364 square kilometer) mixed conifer and hardwood forest of the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation in northwestern California. Broadly, the goal of the research program is to monitor fisher populations and utilize this knowledge to inform Hoopa Tribe natural resource management practices. The research focuses on: (1) characterizing the trees used by fishers for denning and raising young, (2) developing innovative methods to monitor fisher populations, and (3) identify key sources of mortality. Based on these data, the Hoopa Tribe is also developing guidelines for the protection, retention, and development of key habitat. The insights gained from this project are also indicating whether or not timber management practices are increasing fisher mortality, and what changes could be made to reduce the risk of mortality.

The Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation is the largest land-based reservation in California and the well established, federally recognized Hoopa Valley Tribe is one of the most progressive self-governance tribes in the nation. However, the lack of both ecological information and indigenous individuals with wildlife and natural resource management training represents an important challenge to future conservation activities on the Hoopa Reservation and many other Native American lands. In addition to supporting the research, WCS is training tribal community members to become future leaders in natural resource management and wildlife conservation. Working with WCS, Hoopa Tribe members have the opportunity to receive field-based training on research equipment, make field observations, measure and observe fishers, identify tracks and signs, and learn key introductory ecological concepts. Finally, WCS is engaging regional stakeholders, including government agencies, private landowners, managers, and conservation organizations, to work with the Hoopa Valley Tribe to ensure long-term fisher conservation.


  • Develop a base of natural resource information on Hoopa Tribal lands while simultaneously providing wildlife and natural resource training for community members.
  • Provide detailed recommendations for the Tribe’s forest management plan to enhance wildlife habitat protection guidelines for fisher on the Reservation.
  • Inform restoration and conservation efforts for fishers throughout their range in California, Oregon, and Washington using data collected on the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation.


Tribal Forest Management Planning

The Hoopa Tribe's economy is almost entirely based on income generated from timber harvested on the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation. Given that the Pacific fisher depends on forests with old growth characteristics for its long-term survival, it is critical to identify ways to maintain or enhance fisher habitat while simultaneously implementing the Tribe's timber harvesting plan. 


  • WCS's study has added key recommendations to the Hoopa Tribe’s forest management plan for fisher habitat protection during timber management activities.
  • WCS has established a high school internship program for Tribal youth to explore natural resources careers and contribute to current natural resources management and wildlife conservation on the Reservation.


Latest Publications

All Pacific Fisher within Hoopa Tribal Lands Publications >>

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WCS Hoopa Fisher Project
P.O. Box 368 Hoopa, CA 95546 USA

Partners Include

Integral Ecology Research Center
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Humboldt State University
University of California Davis