My evening climbs up the seasonal roadway typically did not produce unusual wildlife sightings, but a recent walk proved to be exceptional.

Old metal plate with roaring bear.Vector illustration Stock Vector - 38427924

Before I reached my spruce and pine grove on the east side of the gravel road, I saw a black bear, a small one, crossing from the field to the woods. It quickly disappeared, but since the wind was in my favor I decided to sneak up and attempt another glimpse of the bear.

Within five minutes, I approached an old jumble of fallen trees within my grove and saw something that brought me to a stop. It was not the bear that I’d been following, but a short-legged mammal with a bushy tail. A fisher was running uphill, leaping from trunk to fallen trunk, and then, like the black bear, vanishing from view.

Image result for fisher photos[photo by Missoulian]

For a second I thought it was a mink, but no– this was too large, too dark (almost black), too facile a tree climber to be a mink. Fisher sightings are unusual in New York, but are more common now than they were when I first settled here. The fisher’s preferred habitat (unbroken tracts of forest land) is more prevalent than it was four decades ago, and offers the fur-bearer a sufficient livelihood in the pursuit of rabbit, squirrel and porcupine.

blow-down where I saw the running fisher…

Although I’ve witnessed fishers (a large member of the weasel family, and not related to cats) at least four or five times, this was the first occasion where I’ve seen one on the home place. Viewing it was magical, as if a black bear had shape-shifted quickly to a rarer carnivore returning to its former haunts.

I saw it, incidentally, without the dubious aid of alcohol, illegal substance, or the FNN (Fake News Network)! I’d been thinking of “a wild economy,” a notion I referred to in my previous post, whereby energy transactions occur between humans and creatures of the wild.

brown trout, Allegheny…

I’m no expert on the subject but I think that people need these energy transactions to help them keep their balance with nature. The problem is that in our increasingly urbanized existence, with our minimal contact with the wild, a lot of us are lacking a healthy relationship with outer realms. Culturally, our wild economy is hurting.

wild brown, West Branch Pine…

But sequestered souls are busy filling up the void with substitute nature, with illusions. When I was 10 or 11 years old, I became obsessed with UFOs, convinced, from reading library books, that flying saucers were real, that the U.S. government was withholding the truth about them from the public.

upper West Branch modified by beaver works…

Flying saucers could be real, of course, but later on, the drug culture sucked me in and straightened out a lot of misconceptions (so I like to think). After college and my first real job in life, I defected to an edge land where I learned about the beautiful hardships found in rural living.

in the Asaph Wild Area…

I was often entertained by local residents, here and elsewhere, swearing that mountain lions and black panthers (among other unlikely spirits) roamed the hills. I could shape-shift in imagination as handily as anyone, but I wasn’t quite ready to believe (as much as I wanted to) that big cats still haunted Appalachia.

kids or wild men sat here by the stream…

I even heard that our state’s Department of Environmental Conservation was stocking these animals, secretly… Right, and I’ve got a bridge that I can sell you over on the Genesee.

backbone of a wild economy…

I guess if you believe some fallacy long enough, you’ll come around eventually to seeing it face to face. You’ll witness UFOs sweeping the sky, or find cougars stalking Pennsylvania white-tails. Everything shape-shifts, potentially, to fill a vacuum in the soul. Everyone needs to find some magic in the world.

rainbow magic… 10/6/19

I feel rather fortunate in finding a simple presentation, though– of bear to fisher in a woodlot near the house, of creatures giving something back to one who looks– a wild economy at work.

whatinhell laid this egg at the bottom of the Asaph… a Squonk?

the beholder…

About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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23 Responses to Shape-Shifter

  1. Ross says:

    what a great gift from the nature gods to spot both a bear and fisher on you walk; nice ! Also, looks like your fishing has been enjoyable by the last couple of posts.

  2. plaidcamper says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed this one, Walt! Flights of fancy are often prompted by the wonders of the natural world, and why wouldn’t a curious mind make the most of what keen eyes try to see? Definitely a shapeshifter. The bear was a fisher was a bear… Great to spot any furry friends given that the wild economy is feeling the pinch.
    Flying saucers aren’t real? Damn! I also obsessed about them as a boy!

    • Well, coming to think of it a little more, flying saucers might have been responsible for me being where I am today (wherever that is). Flights of fancy never end, thank god, and I appreciate your understanding, Plaid!

  3. Brent says:

    That’s a very cool sighting! At this point, the only traditionally endemic large mammals you’re missing there are wolves, elk, and cougar (unless I’m missing someone).

  4. JZ says:

    haven’t gotten out lately Walt. My RAV4 died recently, 260k bought new in 2009. Went and purchased a new 4Runner Off Road in Maryland. Still waiting to switch out my temp tags and put back on USMC tags, Taking off Thursday to get back on the water after a long hiatus, at least for me. Really glad to read your posts and congrats for seeing a Fisher, plus a bear in the same outing. you’ve been hanging out with exclusive company and I would love to have that VIP pass you got right now. Your blazing trails Walt and making memories along the way. Who says you need a lot of money to enjoy life. You don’t a course, it s the simple things like family, fishing, hiking and spending time with friends that make life sweet. Your a testament of that uncomplicated life Walt and it speaks to inner harmony. Keep in lock-step my friend and my time to breathe in the cool air is coming soon..

    • A 10-year-old vehicle with that much mileage is about as good as it comes, as far as cars go. We had a couple that lasted about that long, each peaking at 270K-plus. Good luck with the new machine and may it get you where you need to go. Thanks JZ; the weather should be good this weekend and the streams should be in better shape than they’ve been of recent times. Enjoy, and may the fisher spirit be your guide!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Had a fisher here for a few days, have not heard or seen it lately but Like you say what a sight.

  6. [a comment from UB]
    River chicken? lol
    If someone spouts a lie long enough, someone’s going to start taking it for the truth. Let’s not go there.
    Looked like a fine day/s for a hike and fish Walt!
    Do you go to the SRS board meetings?

    • Marion,
      I like “river chicken”– wish I’d thought of the culprit! Politics may beckon but, you’re right, it gets depressing… Yes, good days to be out, and I hope you can enjoy them. As for the board meeting, I do plan on attending.

      • Anonymous says:

        Cool beans about the board meeting. I’ve ‘given notice’ to the PT folks – 2 hour stretch drive of 8 hours and steps by end of October. So, they’re on notice… lol
        I’ll have to keep an eye out for them River Chickens next spring up Slate? Ha!

  7. Bob Stanton says:

    I’ve only witnessed one Fisher with my naked eyes, but come across their tracks a few times. As for mysterious shape-shifters, this place went wild with ‘squatch fever after that TV show visited to rustle some up. Still looking….

  8. Bob says:

    I thought I saw squatch once on the Kinderhook – but it was only my friend Mike – they look remarkably similar though!
    And I too will keep a weather eye out for dem water chickens

    • Anonymous says:

      ‘River Chickens’ – but I don’t think they (the river chickens) know the difference between river or water chickens 😉
      (just finished Streamwalker’s Journey Walt – very good therapy – thanks again)

      • UB, The jury’s still out on whether river chickens are self-conscious or not. We should probably withhold judgement till we hear. However, we do know that they can lay a big mean egg… And yes, I’m glad you found the SJ to be therapeutic and useful. Thanks for letting me know!

    • Bob, Your friend Mike on the Kinderhook reminds me of my first fly-fishing experiences ever– on that stream with my buddy Mike… We were 11 or 12-years old. It was springtime and Mike slipped & went under the icy Kinderhook waters. Came out looking like & sounding like Squatch or Squonk. Yeah let me know if you see one of those river chickens. I’d love to get a photo.

  9. loydtruss says:

    A sighting of a bear and a fisher on one outing is exceptional. In fact the fisher resembles a small bear with a low profile. Outstanding colors on the rainbow, sorry I’m no help with the egg. Thanks for sharing

  10. Anonymous says:

    Would this make the fisher a ‘friend in low places’ to the bear? Just attempting minor humor folks please forgive. UB
    (Walt you don’t have to approve this comment if you don’t want…. I’m just getting antsy here)

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