Being a semi-truck driver Michael Gozelanczyk sees more than his fair share of road kill though what he encountered April 15 along I-90 between Willoughby and Willoughby Hills gave him a double take.
So much so that Gozelanczyk of Auburn Township wheeled about, stopped and scooped up the dead critter, lying along the interstate next to Lake Metroparks’ 172-acre Gully Brook Park.
Thinking maybe the half-flattened mammal was either a river otter or perhaps the much more rare pine martin, Gozelanczyk used an Internet-based field guide to make a positive identification.
Only it was no fairly common river otter and no rare pine martin. What the mammal, the electronic field guide said, was an equally-rare-for-Ohio fisher.
Positive identification came from the Ohio Division of Wildlife. Its officer assigned to Geauga County, Scott Denamen, collected the now-frozen fisher from Gozelanczyk and today delivered it to the agency’s District Three (Northeast Ohio) office in Akron.
Fishers are in the same family as weasels, skunks, martins, badgers and otters. The can grow to 18 pounds, with males being up to 41 inches long and females being shorter and lighter in weight.
The species craves large swaths of mature forests and typically are found no closer to Ohio than Upstate New York and central Pennsylvania.
Porcupines make up a major portion of a fisher’s diet though members of this clan will eat smaller mammals, carrion and some plant matter.
They can be aggressive and may attack pets with a few incidences of them attacking young children.
During a recent February international fur-buyers’ auction in Toronto, the average price for a fisher pelt sold for $156.67, the species’ luxurious pelts being especially in demand by the Chinese, reports the industry-related Trapping Today.
“I used to trap and hunt but I never thought I’d ever see a fisher,” Gozelanczyk said. “I went ‘wow.’”
Wow, too, was the reaction from the Wildlife Division, though perhaps not as dramatically as expressed as by Gozelanczyk.
“It’s not a terribly huge surprise though it certainly something that is unique,” said District Three spokeswoman Jamey Emmert. “There have been reports of possibly fisher activity near our Highlandtown Wildlife Area in Columbiana County.”
This might make more sense than a fisher – even a dead one – being found in western Lake County. While Lake County is a couple counties over from Pennsylvania, Columbiana County is hard-pressed to the state line.
And fishers are native to Pennsylvania which manages the species as a fur-bearing mammal through a limited trapping program. The state conducted its first modern-day fisher-trapping season in 2011 after a successful re-introduction effort spearheaded by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service.
One unknown regarding the fisher Gozelanczyk found, however, is whether the animal is a male or female. It seems that whatever struck the animal did so at the fisher’s high-quarters, partially obliterating at least a casual sexual identification, Emmert said.
“The front half is in beautiful condition though,” Emmert said.
That being said, the fact the fisher was found in mid-April leads biologists to believe the animal is probably a male. This is the species’ breeding season and thus the fisher may have wandered into Ohio in search of a mate, Emmert said.
No word yet on what the agency plans to do with the carcass, however.- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn