Fisher at the Martin residence
Steven Cross

In early November of 2001, a local High Prairie resident with the last name of Martin contacted the Fish and Wildlife Office to report a fisher that had been killing chickens. An officer attended and set a live trap in an attempt to capture the varmint. A couple days later we had him. Officer Mirus, RCMP Corporal Pierson and I retrieved the fisher and the trap and ventured off in search of the perfect location to release and photograph our critter. We thought for sure that we had the front cover of the Alberta Game Warden magazine all wrapped up.

With a fresh snowfall, the trees were covered and the ground glistened in the early morning sun. We could see the headlines now

We positioned our vehicles for the sun to be at our backs. Officer Mirus was wearing his best pressed shirt and a fresh haircut. There wasn't much we could do with his looks so we made do with what we had. I cleaned the lens of my point-and-shoot and got into position. Officer Mirus reached into the box of my truck to remove the trap, but instead lifted the sliding door. In a lightening bolt flash our varmint had his head out of the trap with a flurry of teeth and nails. Everyone bailed for cover and watched our dreams of stardom dash off into the beautiful snow-covered spruce. Officer Mirus hardly heard another word about it.

That's an SUV, not a playground!

Fast-forward one year. It was late October 2002 and the High Prairie Fish and Wildlife office had received a call from a local area resident advising of an infestation of fishers. We were a little apprehensive to believe the story of three fishers being such a nuisance.

Upon our arrival it was a little shocking to see three fishers bounding from the front porch of the residence. The resident explained that she could live with the critters occasionally tearing the garbage bags apart or even the threat of attack, but she had to draw the line when they began sliding down the windshield of her 2002 Jeep Cherokee, scratching the hood in the process.

We went into action and within 24 hours we had our first culprit. Again, we dreamed of a perfect picture for the cover of the Alberta Game Warden magazine. But we didn't learn from our mistakes so we sent Officer Mirus to retrieve the critter. It wasn't more than 30 minutes later that I received the dreadful phone call.

"You won't believe what happened," exclaimed Mirus. He went on to explain how our slippery culprit chiseled his way through the floor of the transport trap and escaped, unphotographed, again!

Father-in-law to the rescue

The next capture occurred a few days later at approximately 8 p.m. I received a call at home informing me that we had captured another member of the fisher trio. The outlaws (read in-laws) were in town visiting and I asked my father-in-law Pete if he wanted to go along for the ride. I loaded the trap and headed back to town to store the varmint in the warehouse until daybreak, to get that elusive front cover photograph. We arrived at the warehouse and I unloaded the trap and butted it up to the holding cage. The father-in-law piped up to inform me, "That cage will never hold him. He'll go right through those bars!"

In my wisdom I replied, "Pfffft, of course it will hold." I lifted the trap door and in the critter went. I closed the door and wired it shut. Done!

Within seconds the varmint had his head pried through the bars, then one leg, then the other and then he was gone across the warehouse to disappear into a pile of lifejackets. Beautiful! I went back to my truck, got my catchpole and tested the loop. Returning to the warehouse, Pete asked, "Where's mine?"

"Sorry, only got one," I replied. We began the stalk. I occasionally caught a glimpse of black between the lifejackets, hip waders and action packers. I snaked my catchpole in and attempted to lure him into my trap; however, the next thing I saw was the critter exploding from the pile in attack mode. I retreated for cover only to discover the father-in-law had the exit blocked with the box from our ice-fishing tent. Things really got tense when Pete jumped from behind the box, banging an aluminum shovel and waving a pair of orange coveralls. I never thought anything could climb sheer aluminum siding but I witnessed it and can vividly remember the sound, similar to nails on a chalkboard... times ten!

After scaling the wall the varmint dove back into the pile. Trying to block out the heckling from the background, I resumed the hunt. This time he entered the loop and I nabbed him. I started to drag the miniature Tasmanian devil back to the cage when he grabbed the front tire of one of the quads. I finally pried his grubby little paws off and stuffed him back into the live trap.

The following day, Officer Rudneski and I picked up our little friend and managed to snap some photos. Maybe, combined with the pity this story should generate, the photo might make it to the cover of the magazine. One day you may even see Officer Mirus on the cover, if we can find something that doesn't involve handling live wildlife.

Steven Cross is a member of the Alberta Game Warden Association in High Prairie.