7 Ways To Keep Fisher Cats Away Indefinitely


The fisher (Pekania pennanti) in winter

Whether you’re familiar with fisher cats or not, they can be a nuisance to humans, your pets, and your livestock. Especially with their absolutely ghastly screams similar to a red fox. But did you know that there are ways to keep fisher cats away indefinitely? 

Fisher cats are carnivorous mammals, and there are several different ways to keep them away. You can keep fisher cats away from your property by removing food sources, securing garbage cans, clearing away brush, securing chicken areas, removing food sources, and keeping small pets inside at night.

Read on to learn about keeping fisher cats away, indefinitely. We have some great tips!

Why Keep Fisher Cats Away?

Fisher cats are a known nuisance in most parts of Canada, where there are boreal forests, and in the northern areas of the United States. Fisher cats are considered a problem because they can attack domestic animals. They see animals as food, regardless of if they are your pets, such as small dogs, cats, and rabbits. After all, they are wild animals!

Fisher cats have also been known to devastate backyard chicken populations and since they hunt in the evening, they can ambush these animals by surprise. Other wild animals like raccoons and foxes can do the same! Surprisingly though, fisher cats even prey on porcupines, which tend to be their favorite.

Fisher cats don’t usually attack humans but if they feel threatened they can become aggressive. 

These cats are part of the weasel family and they look the part! They have a long, slender, cylindrical-shaped body, and long tails, which make up ⅓ of their body size. Fisher cats can sometimes be mistaken as giant ferrets or cats.

Their fur coloring ranges from dark brown color to black and they have sharp teeth and claws, allowing them to climb from tree to tree looking for prey. The claws can retract inward when they’re not using them, similar to cats although they are not a cat or any version of a cat. Fisher cats are sexually dimorphic (physically different sizes in both males and females) in that the adult males are roughly two to four times the size and weight of adult females. 

How Do You Know If You Have Fisher Cats?

So just how would you know if you have a fisher cat problem?

Young Fisher (Martes pennanti) Cries Out from Atop Log

If you have a fisher cat problem, you may notice small footprints similar to that of a cat or fox, with their scat also looking similar to fox’s. Fishers actively seek out prey first thing in the morning, at dawn, or in the evening, at dusk, but have been seen during the day in the winter season.

Since the early 2000s, fisher cat populations have increased at a steady rate. Much of the land that had historically been used for farming has been restored to forest growth, contributing to the expansion of their habitat area, resulting in an increase in their population. Another reason for the rise in their population is due to strict trapping regulations that were not previously in place. 

Fisher cats are found in forests and climb from tree to tree searching for food. Their prey is found not only in trees but along the ground underneath the canopy of the forest, which tends to be small animals and birds, occasionally rodents. 

We mentioned that they are carnivorous, but they tend to be generalist feeders and will also consume berries. Generally, fisher cats go after squirrels, porcupines, rabbits, and raccoons, however, this also includes amphibians and reptiles, insects, and decaying animal remains. 

Fisher cats, like other wild animals, can carry ticks, fleas, rabies, and mange, another reason they can be considered a nuisance. 

And did you know that fisher cats scream? Their scream is known to sound like a woman screaming and is often mistaken for red foxes. Although fisher cats are known to be silent and stealthy, fisher cats use their scream at night as a mating call and to keep predators away. It’s pretty creepy to hear!

How Do You Keep Fisher Cats Away Indefinitely?

Fortunately, there are a few good ways to keep Fisher’s from wanting to visit your property.

Fisher (Martes pennanti) Looks Out From Above in Tree Winter

Secure Trash Cans 

Just like other wild animals, fisher cats are drawn to food. 

Fisher cats are generalist predators, meaning that because they compete with other predators and can survive in different types of regions, they will eat prey that is abundant in that area. 

If you’ve ever had experiences with raccoons or foxes, this is similar. Raccoons will get into garbage cans if they are not tied together or the lids on secure. They have also been known to open fridges and cans of cat food. I am speaking from experience on this one! 

These behaviors are common in most animals that are predators or scavengers, like fisher cats. So if you have dealt with raccoons or foxes, tips for trash cans and outdoor animal structures are the same. To avoid these issues with fisher cats, keep trash cans locked up, perhaps in a shed or shed box. Metal garbage cans are also an option as long as the lids are tight and secured on the trash cans.  

Remove Any Sources of Food

Fisher cats have been known to go into chicken coops, which can be devastating. Fisher cats go after whatever prey and food supply is available, if and when their preferred food supply begins to decrease.

Other food sources include compost and bird feeders, both of which attract fisher cats and other animals. Compost piles can attract lots of animals to it since it’s just food scraps. Likewise, bird feeders attract birds and squirrels, which make them sitting ducks for fisher cats. 

Remove any potential food source that could attract animals to your property. This will help ensure the safety of your pets and hopefully keep fisher cats and other unwanted animals away. 

Clear Away Brush and Other Organic Material

Clearing brush around your property ensures that fisher cats will not create a home in the existing brush. Remove organic material like logs, brush, and trimming back trees. Fisher cat habitats that have been previously noted by scientific studies are now constantly changing as the region they inhabit grows. 

What’s fascinating is that fisher cats, depending on habitat, go after certain prey. A study done by the American Society of Mammalogists, suggests that in habitats where snowshoe hares were more abundant, fisher cats would search from place to place in areas that resembled where snowshoe hares normally lived. However, in regions where porcupines were more abundant, fisher cats would go directly to porcupine dens to hunt for porcupines as prey.

Signifying that depending on habitat available, fisher cats will go after whatever prey happens to be more abundant or readily available. By keeping brush in your yard and other organic materials to a minimum, it is less likely that fisher cats will make themselves at home in your yard consequently, not searching for readily available prey i.e., your pets.

Secure Animal Hutches, Coops, and Other Structures

If you keep rabbits, chickens, or any other small animals, you’ll want to keep reading! This section will help with fisher cats, raccoons, foxes, and more!

We’ve mentioned that fisher cats are generalists and opportunistic feeders. What this means is that whatever prey is substantial or available, that’s the prey they are going to go after. If you’ve had experience with raccoons or foxes and your backyard pets, then you know what I’m going to say next. Secure your coops, hutches, or other animal enclosures with locks and fences! 

The use of locks on coops and other animal hutches or structures is crucial. This is another step to maintain the safety and longevity of your animals. Doors can blow open, animals can push them open with their noses, pull them open with teeth, or open them with their hands (raccoons). Locks can further help to predator-proof your enclosures.

Typically, with chicken coops or any animal structures, you want to use strong, solid wire. Steel hardware cloth is the recommended wire fencing to use for coops and chicken runs as well as other animal enclosures like rabbit hutches. Hardware cloth is significantly stronger than chicken wire and most animals can’t pull it open to create holes or chew it to fit through, which is easy to do with chicken wire. 

However, to get the best use and ensure the safety of your animals, it is imperative that you secure your entire coop, run, hutch, or other animal enclosures. When you use hardware cloth, you usually dig about a foot down before securing.

This tends to keep predators from digging under the coop and attacking your animals. But, you can also bury the hardware cloth underneath the flooring of the chicken coop and run. Both methods are good options for keeping predators out, as long as you use hardware cloth or something of similar strength or more!

Young Fisher (Martes pennanti) on Against Sky

Use Bright Lights or Loud Noises

Bright lights and loud noises have also been shown to ward off predators that get a little too close for comfort to your home. This may be enough to scare them away and run for cover, although bright lights don’t work on raccoons. 

Fisher cats are generally frightened by humans, suggesting that bright lights or loud noises may be enough to scare them away. Most people do not see fisher cats, even if they hear them. 

The Amtek Critter Gitter – Animal Repeller with Alarm and Flashing Device automatically detects animals from a 40-foot radius. When it detects animals it emits a 120-dB sound for 5 seconds, each time emitting a different sound so that animals don’t become used to it and ignore it. It also begins flashing high-intensity red lights as soon as the sound starts. The cool thing about this device is that it runs on battery so you can move it around to see where it works best!

I’m on the fence about the effectiveness of ultrasound repellents, but it can’t hurt to pair it with another stimulus like a motion sensor light.

There are a few other options available, which you can read in our guide to repelling wildlife with motion sensor lights here.

Spray Commercial Repellents 

There are two suggested methods of spraying to keep fisher cats away, which are commercial repellents and predator urine. 

Commercial repellents include something such as Bonide – Repels All Animal Repellent. This product works on deer, rabbits, and occasionally chipmunks and squirrels. Some reviews even say it works on porcupines and some birds! Since these are the prey of fisher cats and it is supposed to keep them away, there’s a good chance that it could work at repelling fisher cats. 

Predator urine is another method that most say will work. Specifically for fisher cats, this would be wolf urine, which is suggested as the urine specifically used to repel them. The Predator Pee – Wolf Pee Yard Cover comes in granule form making it easy to spread. Although it may be gross to think about and smell, if they are a problem or a potential problem, this would be a safe bet to try!

Keep in mind, any predator urine may have the potential to attract the scent of the predator you’re using. Make sure to read all usage information before using a product.

We would recommend coyote or fox urine instead, but fisher cats aren’t very afraid of those as they would most likely win in a fight.

Bring Pets In At Night

Fisher cats, as we mentioned, are generalist feeders meaning that they will prey on what’s available to them. So if there are small animals around that are easy to get, that’s what they will prey on.

If you’re in an area where fisher cats are known to inhabit, it’s best to keep a close eye on small dogs, cats, and rabbits, especially if you have any that roam outside. Because fisher cats are typically hunting at dusk or dawn, it’s a good idea to bring your small pets inside at night to remove any potential risk that comes from leaving them outside with predators around. 

That’s All For Now!

That’s all we have for now on ways to keep fisher cats away. Whether you have a fisher cat problem now or a potential one in the future, hopefully this article will help you!

To recap how to keep fisher cats away:

  • Secure trash cans
  • Remove any food sources
  • Clear brush and other organic material
  • Secure animal hutches, coops, and other structures
  • Put out bright lights or use loud noises
  • Use commercial repellents
  • Bring in animals at night

There you have it, these are some of the ways you can keep fisher cats and other wildlife away from your livestock and pets. 

Fisher cats won’t attack humans but when threatened can be aggressive. Most of the time, however, they just run away. Nonetheless, these tips for keeping fisher cats away from your animals can help deter them from coming into your yard for good!

References

Kautz, Todd M., et al. “American Martens Use Vigilance and Short-Term Avoidance to Navigate a Landscape of Fear from Fishers at Artificial Scavenging Sites.” Scientific Reports, vol. 11, no. 1, 2021.

Nilsen, Erlend B., et al. “Can Intra-Specific Variation in Carnivore Home-Range Size Be Explained Using Remote-Sensing Estimates of Environmental Productivity?” Écoscience, vol. 12, no. 1, 2005, pp. 68–75.

Powell, R. A. “Effects of Scale on Habitat Selection and Foraging Behavior of Fishers in Winter.” Journal of Mammalogy, vol. 75, no. 2, 1994, pp. 349–356.

Powell, Roger A, and William J Zielinski. “Fisher, USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station.” Department of Zoology, College of Agriculture & Life Science, North Carolina State University. , vol. 3, 2012.

Shvik, John A., et al. “Nonlethal Techniques for Managing Predation: Primary and Secondary Repellents.” Conservation Biology, vol. 17, no. 6, 2003, pp. 1531–1537.

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