Carnivores are important elements of biodiversity, not only because of their role in transferring energy and nutrients, but also because they influence the structure of the communities where they occur. The fisher Martes pennanti is amammalian carnivore that is associated with late-successional mixed forests in the Sierra Nevada in California, and is vulnerable to the effects of forest management. As a candidate for endangered species status, it is important to monitor its population to determine whether actions to conserve it are successful. We implemented a monitoring program to estimate change in occupancy of fishers across a 12,240-km2 area in the southern Sierra Nevada. Sample units were about 4 km apart, consisting of six enclosed, baited track-plate stations, and aligned with the national Forest Inventory and Analysis grid. We report here the results of 8 y (2002–2009) of sampling of a core set of 223 sample units. We model the combined effects of probability of detection and occupancy to estimate occupancy, persistence rates, and trend in occupancy. In combined models, we evaluated four forms of detection probability (1-group and 2-group both constant and varying by year) and nine forms of probability of occupancy (differing primarily by how occupancy and persistence vary among years). The bestfitting model assumed constant probability of occupancy, constant persistence, and two detection groups (AIC weight = 0.707). This fit the data best for the entire study area as well as two of the three distinct geographic zones therein. The one zone with a trend parameter found no significant difference from zero for that parameter. This suggests that, over the 8-y period, that there was no trend or statistically significant variations in occupancy. The overall probability of occupancy, adjusted to account for uncertain detection, was 0.367 (SE = 0.033) and estimates were lowest in the southeastern zone (0.261) and highest in the southwestern zone (0.583). Constant and positive persistence values suggested that sample units rarely changed status from occupied to unoccupied or vice versa. The small population of fishers in the southern Sierra (probably ,250 individuals) does not appear to be decreasing. However, given the habitat degradation that has occurred in forests of the region, we favor continued monitoring to determine whether fisher occupancy increases as land managers implement measures to restore conditions favorable to fishers.
Zielinski, William J.; Baldwin, James A.; Truex, Richard L.; Tucker, Jody M.; Flebbe, Patricia A. 2013. Estimating trend in occupancy for the Southern Sierra fisher Martes pennanti population. Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management 4(1):xx–xx; e1944-687X. doi: 10.3996/012012-JFWM-002