You'd be forgiven for falling in love with the ferret-like scuffling and undeniable fuzziness of the fisher cat, but the sharp-toothed predators are best admired from afar. Remote camera-traps are perhaps the ideal way to observe the elusive animals and are the method of choice for wildlife officials in Maine who have been monitoring fisher population trends using motion-activated cameras, as well as snow tracking, for some time. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) recently released a short clip filmed on a camera trap of a fisher foraging on a snow-covered forest floor:

"Fishers are usually secretive and elusive, making this trail camera footage from Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge in Maine pretty spectacular," USFWS wrote on Instagram.

The fisher cat is perhaps one of the most poorly named species in North America. The weasel-like predator is not a cat and doesn't care much for fishing. Rather it's a member of the Mustelidae family – a clade of carnivorous mammals, that includes weasels, ferrets, wolverines, badgers, martens, otters and minks. Although the slender predators will not turn down a meal of fish, their diet is varied and fishing is not believed to make up a significant part of their foraging behaviour. It's more likely that the name originates from the French/Dutch word "fiche" which refers to the European polecat – a species that bears some resemblance to the fisher.

Fishing may not be their forte, but the floofy carnivores are prolific hunters and will take down everything from squirrels, reptiles and birds, to amphibians, hares and small mammals. They also eat fruit when available and may even scoff down other fishers (although that sort of macabre dining has only been recorded in Pennsylvanian populations where it's possible a surge in fisher numbers forced the animals to compete with one another for food, creating the conditions for things to get a little cannibalistic).

Perhaps the fisher's most impressive predatory accomplishment, however, is its ability to target porcupines. The cunning predators start by tiring out their spiky adversaries, Michael Joyce, a wildlife ecologist at the Natural Resources Research Institute of the University of Minnesota Duluth explained to Live Science. They run circles around them before snapping at their faces – one of the few 'unquilled' areas. Several bites later and the porcupine eventually perishes from its injuries allowing the fisher to twist the animal over exposing its soft belly. It's not an easy feat and fishers regularly wind up plucking quills out of their faces, but they appear to be able to bounce back from these injuries.

Fishers have also been known to successfully take on lynx – wild cats twice their size. "A fisher really doesn't have any boundaries in the size of the animal it's willing to attack," Scott McLellan, a wildlife biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, told National Geographic.

Although rare, there are reports of attacks by fisher cats on pets and even people. So, if you are lucky enough to see one in the flesh, it's best to keep your distance.

Header image: ForestWander