Habitat, Climate, and Fisher and Marten Distributions.
Pauline Suffice, Marianne Cheveau, Louis Imbeau, Marc Mazerolle, Hugo Asselin, Pierre Drapeau.
Since the mid?twentieth century, fisher populations (Pekania pennanti) increased in several eastern jurisdictions of North America, particularly in the northern part of the species’ range. Changes in fisher distribution have led to increased overlap with the southern portion of the range of American marten (Martes americana), whose populations may be locally declining. This overlap occurs particularly in habitats undergoing natural and anthropogenic modification. The objective of our study was to determine the respective effects of habitat changes and climatic conditions on fisher and marten populations in Quebec, Canada, based on trapper knowledge. We analyzed annual fisher and marten harvest (number of pelts sold/100?km2) between the 1984–1985 and 2014–2015 trapping seasons using linear mixed models. Fisher harvest increased with the increased abundance of mixed forests >12?m tall, resulting from decades of forest harvesting. Fisher harvest decreased with increasing spring rains, which can affect survival when rearing young. Marten harvest decreased with increasing winter rains, which lower thermoregulation capacity and hamper movements by creating an ice crust on the snowpack, reducing access to subnivean areas. Decline in marten harvest during the 30?year study period coincided with an increase in fisher harvest, suggesting possible interspecific competition. Results highlight that managers should strive to maintain mixedwood stands taller than 12?m to maintain high quality habitat for fishers. Our study confirms the importance of working with trappers to assess furbearing population trends in response to habitat changes and climatic conditions. © 2019 The Wildlife Society.