WEST GREENWICH, R.I. (AP) – Fisher cats, carnivores that normally feast on small mammals, are having some run-ins with humans and their pet dogs in western Rhode Island.

Two fisher cat attacks were reported in West Greenwich last week, and the rural town’s police chief says his station has received reports of several sightings in recent weeks.

“They usually won’t bother you,” Chief Ronald Lepre said. “This attack is very, very rare.”

Fisher cats aren’t actually cats, and they aren’t known to catch fish. The members of the weasel family have dark bodies, wedge-shaped snouts, large front paws for climbing, and sharp claws to catch and feast upon baby turkeys, eggs, rabbits, chickens, and chipmunks.

While they’ve been known to make meals of domestic pets such as cats, recent reports of attacks involving dogs have come as a surprise.

A West Greenwich woman told police a fisher cat attacked her German Shepherd in her backyard on Wednesday night. When the woman’s husband tried to rescue the pet, the fisher cat lunged at the man and then ran into the woods, the woman reported.

On Friday, a West Greenwich woman reported a fisher cat had aggressively chased her and her Golden Retriever down a road as they were on a walk.

Fisher cats aren’t uncommon in wooded areas of western Rhode Island, but the recent reports are considered unusual.

“I’ve seen more of them this year than ever,” Lepre said.

“They’re tough little animals,” said West Greenwich Town Administrator and state Sen. Kevin Breene, who owns several acres in town and has had his share of run-ins with the animals. “They roam Coventry and West Greenwich and they look like a cross between a bear and a rabbit and a woodchuck… I guess they look like a little bit of everything.”


Information from: The Woonsocket Call, http://www.woonsocketcall.com

AP-ES-07-29-07 1615EDT