HOW TO CATCH FISHER
The Fisher, or Black Cat of our hunters, is a small, yet powerful animal, standing nearly a foot from the ground. It was formerly very abundant in the Middle States, but is now confined to the thinly settled northern districts. It is a nocturnal species, and lives chiefly on the smaller quadrupeds; but also devours frogs, fishes, and serpents. It climbs with great ease, and takes up its abode in the trunk of a tree. The form of the body is typical; head broad, nose acute, ears about three inches from the nose, broad, rounded, and distant; the fore feet are shorter than the hind ones, and the soles of both are covered with short hair; the color is grayish over the head and anterior parts of the body, dark brown or black behind.
The name of Fisher, which has been censured as not applicable to the animal, is, however, that by which he is best known, and which it has received from its characteristic habits. Richardson states that it feeds on the hoard of frozen fish stored up by the inhabitants. We are informed by a person who resided many years near Lake Oneida, where the Fisher was then common, that the name was derived from its singular fondness for the fish used to bait traps. The hunters were in the habit of soaking their fish over night, and it was frequently carried off by the Fisher, whose well-known tracks were seen in the vicinity. While I have been engaged catching Marten, having a line of wooden traps several miles long, the Fisher would get upon the trail, and destroy all the traps he came to, taking the bait as he went. It brings forth two young ones at a time, annually. The hunting season for the Fisher in the northern parts of Canada and the Western States commences about the tenth of October, and lasts till the middle of May, when the fur becomes less valuable. The ordinary price is a dollar and a half per skin, but for two or three years past they have fetched ten dollars, although they are not so fine nor so highly valued as the Sable.
After finding my Marten traps torn, I had to devise some way to stop that, by capturing the Fisher. I found that he would never go in at the door of the trap, but would pull up the cover, and so take the bait without being caught. I at once built a string trap, with two holes, one above the other, making two doors to enter the trap, and so arranging that when one sprung, both would spring; so that if he went in at the upper or lower door he was equally certain to be caught.
I found, however, that he always went in at the top. The Fisher may also be caught with a good double spring steel trap, by using the following precaution. First bend down a small sapling, and fasten the top under a hook, previously driven in the ground for the purpose. To the end of the sapling fasten the chain of the trap, set it, and cover it up neatly with leaves or other light substance, hanging the halt about two feet above the trap, with no other possible means of getting to it but to reach up over the trap. When he is caught and twitched about, he pulls the pole from under the hook, and is jerked up into the air, trap and all. This will prevent his gnawing off his leg, which he would surely do if he had the trap to himself. About the best bait that I know of is fish, but chicken or fresh meat of any kind will do very well.
When the Fisher travels he makes his tracks in the same manner as the Marten, only his feet are about the size of a fox's, and his jumps are about three feet long, unless he is hurried, when they are four or five feet long. When you see these tracks in the fresh fallen snow, make up your mind to catch the animal. It will take you all day perhaps, but then you will have the booty.
Although he is a nocturnal animal, yet when routed in the day-time he travels at a great rate, but if you have a good dog you may soon overtake him. When hard pressed he may take to a tree, but will be more likely to run into a hollow log. In the first place you may shoot him, but in the second the axe comes into play.
You may scent the trail leading from one trap to another as you do for the Marten, and the same trap will answer for both animals, and you will sometimes catch a Coon or a Mink.
Thrasher, Halsey. The Hunter and Trapper. New York: Orange Judd and Company, 1808.
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