Fisher Cat Tracks

The first real snowfall of the year was a beauty. It came on Thanksgiving, which made it seem like a holiday gift (at least for us, as we weren’t traveling.) The snow was just wet enough to stick and outline every branch and leaf. Heavy snow can cause damage, but this was only a few inches, so it was pretty but didn’t wreak havoc here in my small corner of New England.

snow in meadow


Some snow is too icy, or conversely too fluffy, to hold tracks, but this snow, early in the morning, gave off the secrets of the animals that were out and about.

There were footprints by the stone wall.

tracks by wall


There was a distinctive pattern of four footprints, and then three and a hint of a tail drag. This was a large animal.



A close look supplied ample details: claw tips and furry paws.

clear fisher cat tracks

Fisher cat.

The fisher cat is a large weasel and is a fearsome predator. It has massive claws, sharp teeth, and a habit of killing everything that it can and caching the extra in a vee in a tree. (If you come across a dozen dead squirrels wedged between two branches in a tree trunk, you’ll know who put them there.) Fisher cats will rip down fencing to get into a coop. In one hunting spree, a fisher will kill all of your chickens and all you’ll find are a few feathers in the morning. Fisher cats are known to scream. My neighbor’s old dog treed a fisher and the sound was chilling. She pulled her dog away and put him inside. You don’t want your dog tangling with an angry fisher cat.

I followed the tracks. This fisher cat skirted by our fence, but didn’t go in. It thought about it. This fisher cat loped through the front yard and our side woods.

fisher cat


It stopped and circled a few trees, and here you can see it deciding what to do next.

fisher cat circles


Then it went on it’s way.

I’m sure that the squirrel who left these tracks on our stone wall was relieved to see it go.

tracks on stone wall


Note: A big thank you to Steve who I woke up to take these pictures (it’s tricky photographing in snow.) Tracks don’t remain sharp for long. Another fifteen minutes, and a few degrees warmer, and the tracks would no longer have been clear.


  1. Fisher cats are clever, single-minded, persistent – and vicious. They’ve been a problem again in SE Ontario this year, and they are difficult to get rid of. It’s a good thing your barns are pretty secure! Thanks, Steve, for taking these photos – very nice! Now I know what fisher tracks look like. I think it’s always useful to know who’s been around.

  2. Oh how our class waited for the first snowfall–we have the cam on today since it is only 18 degrees where you are–we are in the mid 60’s. Unfortunately, the first snow fall, so greatly anticipated by our little class came on the first day off for Thanksgiving break. But we are still waiting…and we will read the blog about your first snow fall and foot prints in about 15 minutes.
    thanks for the wonderful teaching tool
    Mrs. Sibilia and my ESE Florida class

  3. Many years ago, after a heavy snowfall (2 1/2 to 3 feet), I dug out my son’s snow shoes and went for a stroll around the house. Didn’t see anything as dramatic as fisher cat tracks but I did see some little tiny tracks. Probably a field mouse. When I looked behind me there was my Siamese cat delicately picking her way along in my snow shoe tracks!

    P.S. The word you wanted in your first paragraph was ‘wreak’, not wreck. Sorry but I can be the grammar police at times.

  4. Happily, Pennsylvania is south of the fisher cat’s range. I have weasels, their smaller cousins, who frequently come in through chinks in the foundation to the finished basement’s suspended ceiling where they harass the overwintering field mice. I’d be alarmed, to say the least, if a fisher cat came bursting through the ceiling tile!

    • I’m happy when weasels eat mice, but another member of that family, the mink, will eat chickens, and they, too, can squeeze through small slits. I’m glad that I have neither in my basement :)

  5. Very cool to see those tracks! It’s also interesting to note that Fishers are pretty skilled at hunting porcupine. They will flip them over and avoid those spiny quills.

    • Fishers do tangle with porcupines. I’ve come across a pelt of a porcupine – nothing else. Takes quite the predator to do that.

  6. Pretty pictures! Glad we don’t have those animals around here. Bad enough with coons, foxes and coyote. I put out a game camera at night to see what lurks around the coop.
    Incidentally, I looked up wreak and wreck and they are interchangeable in that usage.

  7. What a beautiful morning picture of the trees!

    It’s fun to see who’s been out and about in the snow. And it’s fun to watch what happens to some of the prints. One year a dog went through our yard and about an hour later when I went outside, the prints had all stretched out to make it look like a giant wolf had gone through. :D

  8. For the first time ever I’ve had a fisher cat stalking around my chicken area. I saw it one morning around dawn about 2 weeks ago sitting on my deck and have been tracking it routinely. I put out a hav-a-heart trap but it took the food and somehow got out of the trap. I have three dogs and I cannot let them out now without supervision – even in my fenced yard. There was a 12 year old that was attacked by a fisher cat this summer in MA and ended up with some serious bites. Apparently it came running out of a wooded area and went right for him. If I can’t get out to close up the coop before dusk/dark I carry a large stick or a leather belt to protect myself. They are a pretty scary animal. I am more fearful of the fishers than of bears, which I have also had on my deck in past years before they go in to hibernate.

    The scream fishers make is a horrible sound – just heard it last night and my dogs went crazy. It was also -3 degrees again last night. One more winter to live through – then I’m off to No. Carolina. Can’t wait to get out of Vermont!!! I’m too old for this craziness!

  9. You ever have a problem animal that had you resort to trapping or hunting it? I haven’t had a problem for months, but once in awhile I’ll have a critter that hangs around too much and I have to take action. Not often though: my house cat keeps them at bay mostly.

    • Fishers eat house cats, so it’s good you don’t have one of those near you. I’ve had to trap a problem raccoon that was coming to the coop in the daytime. When animals lose fear like that, you have a situation which can also be bad for humans.

  10. We do not have any fisher cats here thank goodness! We have been lulled into a false sense of security on our property as in the 2 years we have kept chickens there have been no obvious signs of visits by predators in our yard. I know there are racoons and mink and hawks on our island and they can and have been a real problem for some of my fellow poultry keepers and I cringe at the thought it is only a matter of time before I do find they are lurking near-by. Racoons were a real problem in our neighbourhood about 5 years ago and our cats and dogs often got tangled up with them but luckily were not seriously harmed. We had a huge grape arbour covered in juicy grapes that were a huge draw for them and any number of bird species. When we reluctantly got rid of the offending vines the racoons moved away in disgust(I suspect). Thank-you for reminding me that they WILL be back…….chickens are also juicy and delicious. :)