A changing habitat for the marten and the fisher



Forest management leads to changes in the habitat of the animals that live there. Some species benefit, but others may suffer. While Québec trappers have been catching higher numbers of fishers, the fisher's close relative, the marten, is becoming increasingly scarce. To explain this phenomenon, two factors have been identified by the research team of Louis Imbeau, a research professor at the Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue Industrial Chair in Sustainable Forest Management: forest management and climate change. 

This type of research provides information that can help guide forest development strategies that consider the needs and habitats of the wildlife species.

Based on capture data for fur-bearing animals and interviews with Indigenous and non-Indigenous trappers, it was possible to determine that the growing abundance of fisher in northern territories has been encouraged by an increase in mixedwood forest. Forest management has favoured the presence of deciduous trees, which is the habitat of choice for the fisher when rearing its young. The formation of an ice crust on the surface of the snow also facilitates the fisher's movements. While changes in winter conditions do not appear to have a direct effect on the fisher, the same cannot be said for the marten. In fact, climate change has proven to be detrimental to the survival of this species, which is vulnerable to hypothermia. Heavy spring rainfall during the season when the marten is rearing its young could explain its lower capture rates. 

It remains to be determined whether the interaction between these two mustelids is an aggravating factor as their ranges increasingly overlap. This type of research provides information that can help guide forest development strategies that consider the needs and habitats of the wildlife species inhabiting the area. The project was made possible through funding from the Ministère de la Forêt, de la Faune et des Parcs and the Fonds de recherche du Québec - Nature et technologies.