Pot farms are bad news for the Pacific fisher. No, not a fisherman -- this fisher is a type of weasel, which lives on the West coast and is currently endangered. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service just asked for protection under the Endangered Species Act to shield the fisher from rat poison used in pot farms.
The fisher lives in Washington, Oregon and California. Marijuana is currently completely legal in Washington state while California state has legalized medical marijuana. The threat isn't the same to fishers across the entire Pacific region, but rodenticide is a major contributor that can be avoided. Other threats to the fisher population include habitat loss from logging and wildfire. The West coast, especially California, has had a record bad year for wildfire. With all of these factors combined, conservationists say that the fisher population has dramatically declined.
"This is a complex and challenging issue, because threats to the fisher vary across its range," said Robyn Thorson, director of the Pacific branch of the Fish and Wildlife Service.
In a statement, the Fish and Wildlife Service blamed the use of rodenticide in illegal marijuana farms for contributing to the fisher's decline in a massive way.
According to Erin Williams, who worked with the Fish and Wildlife Service, even though there are regulations in place to control the use of rodenticide, not enough is being done to make sure those regulations are followed.
The fisher is currently listed as a candidate for protection under the Endangered Species Act, but the species still has not been moved onto the protected list. The battle to list the fisher for protection has been going on since 2000. The Fish and Wildlife Service is going to publish on a proposal for protecting the fisher on Oct. 7, followed by a 90-day comment period. The decision about whether to add the fisher for protection will probably not be decided until Sept. 30, 2015.
The Pacific fisher is a carnivore. It tends to shy away from people. It lives in forests, not by the sea, despite its name. The fisher's name might have been derived from the fact that hunters used fish as bait to trap the small mammal.