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Mystery Solved For Strange Animal Found Scurrying Around The Bronx

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- For months, a weird unidentified animal has been spotted roaming the streets of one neighborhood in the Bronx.

As CBS 2's Don Champion reported, the mystery surrounding the creature has been solved at last, and the animal could soon help the city's rodent problem.

The animal has been scurrying at night, and spooking people during the day in the Morris Heights section of the Bronx. Some people thought it was a skunk, but it was not.

"One night, I was out putting out garbage and I saw it running across, and I was like, 'Wow what is that?'" said Patrick Watson.

The first sighting happened in April on Hennessy Place when NYPD Officer Derek Lenart snapped a picture. Another sighting happened a few weeks ago.

No one knew what the furry and odd-looking animal was until now.

It turned out the animal was a male fisher – a member of the weasel family. It is the first time the species has ever been recorded in the city.

"They're very good at sneaking around," said zoologist Dr. Roland Kays, of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

Fishers were typically known to live upstate and in the Adirondacks until now, Kays said.

In the wild, fishers are active during the day. But around humans, they are nocturnal.

Zoologists say the little guy spotted in the Bronx was likely looking for a place to hide, such as up in a tree.

"I'm guessing maybe he came down the river, kind of connecting up some of the natural areas, and then kind of took this side trip off into the Bronx," Kays said.

A fast and slinky predator, the fisher is known to eat rats and squirrels. While fishers are not a threat to humans, small pet owners may need to be mindful.

"This is really an evolution of the animals," Kays said. "They're adapting to the urban environment. They're learning how to cross roads. They're learning how to survive right underneath our noses."

Fishers were found in Manhattan when the island was initially settled, but were among the first animals to vanish due to the fur trade, Kays wrote in a blog post.

Trapping of fishers was banned in the 1930s, and the population recovered to the point that they are booming in the Northeast and a trapping season has even been reinstated, Kays wrote.

Fishers first repopulated rural and wild forests, and then began colonizing forests in the suburbs of Albany and other upstate suburban areas about a decade ago, Kays wrote.

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