LACONIA — During the past several weeks, some half-dozen cats have gone missing from homes near Bond Beach Park in the Lakeport area of the city, arousing suspicions among their owners that they may have fallen prey to a family of fishers.
Doug Shaw of Franklin Street said that cats belonging to his daughter and two of their close neighbors have disappeared since late last month while a woman on Bell Street is missing three cats. Shaw and at least one other cat owner have posted signs with color photographs and telephone numbers on utility poles around the neighborhood in hopes of recovering their pets.
Shaw said that a family of fishers (a member of the weasel family) has been sighted near the entrance to Bond Beach Park and that officials of the Elm Street School, which is adjacent to the park, are aware of the presence of the fishers in the neighborhood. He said that he spoke with New Hampshire Fish and Game Department only to be told that there is nothing the agency can do. Instead, they suggested residents hire a trapper to remove the fishers.
Fishers, or fisher cats — though they are not feline — are small carnivorous animals, once prized for their pelts. With slender bodies, short legs and long tails, males may reach three feet in length and weigh between 4 and 12 pounds in weight while females are half that size. Fishers live and hunt in deep forests, preferably with dense cover. They are nocturnal as well as active at dawn and dusk. One of the few predators to hunt, kill and eat porcupines, fishers also feed on rabbits, squirrels and other small mammals while supplementing their diet with insects, nuts, berries and mushrooms.
Fishers have long been suspected of devouring cats. However, a study undertaken in New Hampshire in 1979 that analyzed the stomach contents of trapped fishers found evidence of domestic cats in only one in 1,000 stomachs. Likewise, a study of 24 fishers trapped in suburban areas around Albany and Saratoga Springs, New York and 25 kill sites found no evidence that fishers had preyed on cats. Researchers in New York believe the rising population of coyotes, whose numbers have risen throughout the northeast, are more likely than fishers responsible for disappearing cats.
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