If you’re not familiar with Bull Trout, it’s not your fault. They’ve largely been missing from the Willamette River Basin for the past 50 years.
But have you heard the news? Bull Trout are back in the Clackamas River.
On June 30th 2011 US Fish & Wildlife biologists Chris Allen and Patrick Barry carefully grabbed 20 wiggly Bull Trout from a blue cooler and reintroduced them back into the cold waters of the upper Clackamas.
“In the photos you can see that Patrick is smiling and I’m not because I was nervous I was going to knock over the cooler or something after all our hard work,” lead biologist Chris Allen said at a presentation he gave in January for the Oregon Wildlife Heritage Foundation’s Discovering Wildlife lecture series in Portland, Oregon.
The two biologists used this lecture to inform the public of the reintroduction project, but also to update us on the progress of what’s happened since that summer day.
They described how there had not been a verified Bull Trout sighting in the Clackamas River since 1963. Dams, over-fishing ,and habitat degradation all contributed to their decline. In 1998 the Bull Trout was listed as a Threatened Species in Oregon under the Endangered Species Act and Mr. Allen decided it was time to take action.
He and his team determined that the Clackamas River was a biologically feasible spot to begin this “non-essential” experiment of reintroduction.
Those 20 wild trout they slipped into the Clackamas in June were the first of 58 adult fish and 58 juveniles that they introduced later that summer, which is the first phase of the 1,000 “Bulls” that’ll be introduced into the Clackamas over the next seven years.
So maybe in the upcoming years we’ll all know more about Bull Trout, but for now the most important thing to understand is that Bull Trout are not just another color of fish. They are an apex predator, like wolves or grizzlies. Bull Trout eat other fish for breakfast.
Their introduction strikes fear in the hearts of many salmon and steelhead fisherman, but many fisherman also understand that a healthy fishery includes the competition that drives the evolution of these trophy species.
At a more basic level though, we have to wonder how the heck these “Bulls” are doing?
Chris Allen shared this video at the lecture to show the new, wild trout in a tributary of the Clackamas, Pinhead Creek. It might not be the most exciting video to watch, but what it means is amazing.
Two adult Bull Trout are guarding their redd, or the location of their nest where they have buried their eggs in the loose gravel of the river bottom. When the high water of the winter rains subside this spring in Pinhead Creek, it is quite likely that Bull Trout fry will emerge from the gravel for the first time in 50 years, as the newest residents in an urban watershed that just became a lot more wild.