The creature I almost didn’t see

You’ll hardly believe that I did see this creature at all, as the photos I managed to get are truly awful. Really the worst I’ve ever taken of anything, period. But I’m going to show you anyway, as it was (for us anyway) pretty special.

In the time that we’ve lived on this patch of land in Eastern Ontario, we’ve seen and/or encountered a truly wonderful range of creatures, including snowshoe hares, rabbits, foxes, coyotes, wild turkeys, turtles, deer, herons, turkey vultures, and loads of other birds. We know of other critters that inhabit this part of the world but just haven’t seen, and yesterday morning I finally caught a glimpse of one.

Walking towards our pond with Reggie first thing after feeding the chickens, I saw something splashing about in the middle of the water. I was intrigued and confused, unsure of what I was seeing. Finally, after watching for a minute or two and struggling with the fact that I wasn’t wearing my glasses (which are for distance), I figured it out. Swimming in the middle of our pond was a fisher.

If you haven’t heard of this mammal (and I’ve met a lot of folks who don’t seem to have), let me share this entry from Wikipedia:

The fisher (Martes pennanti) is a medium-sized mammal native to North America. It is a member of the mustelid family, commonly referred to as the weasel family. The fisher is closely related to but larger than the American Marten (Martes americana). The fisher is a forest-dwelling creature whose range covers much of the boreal forest in Canada to the northern fringes of the United States. Names derived from aboriginal languages include pekan, pequam, and wejack. It is also sometimes referred to as a fisher cat, though it is not a feline.

Positive that I had identified this creature, but wanting confirmation, I raced back to the house with the dog in tow and grabbed my husband and older son. We all walked back down quietly, wondering if the creature would have cleared off in the interim. Luck was on our side and he was still swimming about lazily in the centre of the pond.

Fisher in pond in Eastern Ontario, November morning

Without a telephoto lens, I was severely limited in what I could capture at such a distance, and I wasn’t helped by the fact that this creature kept bobbing out of sight and reappearing somewhere new. To cap it off my camera’s light settings seem to have gone wonky! I finally got a shot that will have to suffice for a close-up, but it truly is terrible.

Heaf of fisher above water in Eastern Ontario

We can understand how this mammal would love where we live, as we have a small and secluded forest full of dead wood on the ground (which they love – they tend to sleep in hollow logs) with access to water (the pond and its stream). We obviously have no idea whether he is making his home here or is just passing through; we’ll keep an eye out for him and see what happens (or not!).

19 thoughts on “The creature I almost didn’t see

    1. In spite of their name, they rarely eat fish. They are mostly carnivorous and are one of the few mammals that will attack and eat a porcupine. They can cause problems for chickens, but not nearly so much as other common predators from what I’ve read; I’m hoping the fact that our house is situated at quite a distance from the pond and woods will provide a natural barrier for the chickens.

  1. I kind of think it looks like an Otter…… I didn’t think that fishers swam – I’ve only seen then on land. Your last picture especially has the look of an otter’s head and they would absolutely LOVE swimming in your pond. I’ve seen otter poking its head out of an ice hole which looked very much like your picture. I think fishers have more prominent ears and more fur…….. but I’ve never seen one wet, only dry! lol
    Anyway, Fishers are one of the nastiest predators in the forest. A friend of ours shot a standing deer during hunting season with a fisher on it’s back attacking it…….. and the fisher just stayed on the deer’s back as it fell. We’ve had animals ‘disappear’, we believe due to fishers. Don’t underestimate them – they LOVE eating chickens and anything on four legs.

    1. I’m so grateful that you wander over here and share your experience; I think you must be right about it being an otter rather than a fisher. I’ve had fishers on the brain for a variety of reasons, and the more I compare, the more I think that an otter is more likely. This is what I love about blogging!

      I hear you about the dangerous nature of fishers, and would far prefer to have an otter on our land!

  2. Good thing you don’t have a cat or small dog! Fishers are cute looking, but are terribly viscous. We’ve known people who have lost their pets to these creatures. By the way…I think your picture is nice. 😉

    1. Yes, I’ve read some conflicting things about fishers, but there seems to be no disagreement about their vicious nature. Thanks for taking the time to comment Angela!

  3. I think your photo is fab, and fascinating! Taking photos of wild creatures is incredibly tricky!
    I have never heard of fishers, but do know the weasel and martain family. to my untrained eye your creature looked like an Otter to me too, but they have quite different habits and habitats don’t they. Totally absorbing post my frined ! Thank you

    1. Thank you Claire, that’s very kind. I’m really pleased for the discussion this has generated, and I’m thinking I must switch my thinking to it being more likely an otter. I think Grammomsblog has far more direct experience and I trust her eye, and getting feedback from others like you is invaluable. I did feel in the dark on this one, and these comments are so helpful. Lovely to hear from you!

  4. Neat to see, whether it was a fisher or an otter! I have never encountered a fisher but one used to live in my brother’s woodpile and he says they make really strange sounds that can sometimes sound like a person yelling or screaming in distress.

    1. That’s how I feel, it’s just a great sighting either way. I felt swayed by the idea of it being a fisher in part by the strange sounds it was making to tell us to go away (which I realize I don’t mention in my post). It’s cool to hear about your brother’s woodpile fisher!

  5. Really lovely blog! I haven’t seen a fisher or otter in the wild before, so whatever he is, I’m fascinated. Looks like he’s having a lovely bit of me-time. I’m contending with very noisy and ravenous possums at the moment – nice to hear about wildlife in your neck of the woods.

    1. Thank you! I’ve really enjoyed discovering yours recently and appreciate the visit. Yes, I’m pretty envious of the solitude our creature seems to be enjoying out there in the middle of the water – something I never seem to be able to do myself!

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