Cats vs Dogs

Posted: February 13, 2017

Actually, it’s cat versus dog-like-creature. Mother Nature’s version of Sci-Fi.
Click for larger image

Click for larger image

Coyotes are cool, bobcats are breathtaking, but fishers are freaking awesome. As an admitted lover of all things weasel-like, I was excited to get pictures of fishers this summer. If I could, I would put all of my energy into studying them. But that’s not what I’m getting paid to do. I’m supposed to be studying how different predators (like coyotes and bobcats) use the same landscape, and see how this influences fawn survival.

One species of carnivore (coyotes, for example) can kill and/or scare off another species of carnivore (like bobcats).  This indirectly influences the possibility of prey (fawns) being killed. Thus, it is just as important to figure out how carnivores are interacting with each other as it is to figure out how carnivores are interacting with prey. I have the perfect system to answer these questions with three notable carnivores (bears, bobcats, and coyotes) on the landscape and abundant prey (fawns).   

Fishers (though awesome!) seemed to have no place in my study. Sure, fishers are known to be expert porcupine-hunters, but that is a normal single predator-prey relationship.

Porcupine  Fisher

Imagine my surprise and excitement when I read that bobcats occasionally kill fishers, and fishers on occasion reciprocated. Suddenly, I had the predator-(awesome)predator-prey relationship that I wanted as sometimes bobcats partake in porcupine cuisine as well.

bobcat fisher porcupine

So what would this loveless triangle look like if bobcats were influencing fishers and vice versa?  And how would that affect porcupines? 

Well, I might expect to see bobcats and fishers avoiding each other, using different habitats perhaps. And because fishers are better predators of porcupines than bobcats, maybe porcupines would overlap with bobcats as a way to avoid fishers.


Of course, I’ll still be focusing on my main research, but this will be an interesting little side project.  My fisher odyssey asks the same questions but might provide some interesting comparisons. Deer, rodents, cats, dogs, and dog-like creatures all running amuck.  Fingers crossed we get more fisher pictures this summer!

-Asia Murphy
Ph.D. graduate student
Ecology Program
PA Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit


*Fishers are part of the suborder Caniformia (meaning dog-like)!

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