UPDATED Oct. 7 -- Federal biologists are proposing Endangered Species protection for the west coast population of the fisher.
The fisher is a larger cousin of the weasel. Its territory once covered most of the forests of North America. Trapping nearly wiped out the mammal.
Now, Erin Williams with the U-S Fish and Wildlife Service said, the remaining members of the species in California are at risk from the use of rodenticides at illegal marijuana growing operations.
"And when they eat that poison, it isn't necessarily fatal to the prey at first, whether it's the rat or the wood rat, but then it can build up in their system,” explained Williams. “And it's the same thing with fishers and other wildlife."
She said rodenticide use has been verified at illegal marijuana cultivation sites within occupied fisher habitat on public, private and tribal lands in California.
Williams said that rodenticide exposure in fishers has been documented in fisher populations in the Klamath Mountains and Southern Sierra Nevada, as well as in the reintroduced population at Olympic National Park in Washington state.
She said fisher habitat has also been lost to wildfire and to some timber harvest practices
"If you start to lose any part of your forest ecosystem structure in terms of wildlife that's a problem, but fishers in particular have a really special role to play and help keep the forest healthy,” said Williams.
Under the proposal, the fisher would be listed as a "threatened" species in California, Oregon and Washington. Public comments will be accepted through Jan. 5, 2015.
Williams said there are about 300 fishers in the southern Sierra Nevada in California and another population in the Klamath mountains in California and Oregon.
The USFWS is holding several informational meetings and one public hearing. The public hearing is scheduled for Nov. 17, at the Red Lion Inn, 1830 Hilltop Dr. in Redding from 6 to 8 p.m.
Informal informational meetings:
- November 13, 2014 -- Best Western Miner's Inn, 122 E. Miner Street, Yreka, California, from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
- November 17, 2014 -- Rogue Regency Inn, 2300 Biddle Road, Medford, Oregon, from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
- November 20, 2014 -- Arcata Public Library, 500 7th Street, Arcata, California, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
- November 20, 2014 -- Lacey Community Center, 6729 Pacific Ave SE, Olympia, WA 98503 Lacey, Washington, from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
- November 20, 2014 -- Lacey Community Center, Lacey, Washington, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
- December 3, 2014 -- Visalia Convention Center, 303 E., Acequia, Visalia, California, from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
- December 4, 2014 -- CSUS Stanislaus, Faculty Development Center, Room 118, 1 University Circle, Turlock, California, from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
(AP) -- Citing the threat from rat poisons spread around illegal marijuana plantations, federal biologists are proposing Endangered Species Act protection for West Coast populations of the fisher, a larger cousin of the weasel.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published notice Monday in the Federal Register that it wants to list the fisher as a threatened species in Oregon, California and Washington. The full proposal coming out Tuesday also cites loss of forest habitat to wildfire, logging and urban development.
Erin Williams, who oversaw the analysis, says the poisons are regulated, but the rules have done little to stop the misuse of poisons on pot plantations in forests where fishers live.
The agency is taking public comment and having outside scientists review the proposal before making a final decision by September 2015.