He’s survived a stabbing, a kidnapping and now a wildfire.
Oh, and he’s a fish.
The Eagle Creek Fire has burned more than 30,000 acres in the Columbia River Gorge, torching trees and threatening homes.
The fire forced the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to evacuate three fish hatcheries in the gorge, and to release thousands of juvenile salmon into the Columbia River ahead of schedule after ash and fire debris clogged hatchery intakes.
Despite all that, ‘Herman the sturgeon’ has survived.
“Right now, Herman the sturgeon — who is a very large sturgeon, almost 11 feet long — Herman is fine,” said Michelle Dennehy, a spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
For the unfamiliar, Herman is the star attraction of the Sturgeon Viewing Interpretive Center at the Bonneville Hatchery, adjacent to the Bonneville Dam.
Herman is 79 years old. And he’s huge, weighing in at 500 pounds.
The fish is “an icon and something of a pop-culture figure,” Dennehy said.
People love Herman, especially kids. Dennehy said he typically gets about a half million visitors a year.
When ODFW had to evacuate the hatcheries, many people wanted to know, was Herman OK?
Dennehy said ash in the water can affect gills, stressing fish and potentially causing respiratory problems. But the water in Herman’s viewing pond comes from a well, and hasn’t been impacted by the fire.
The fire isn’t Herman’s first brush with death, either.
“Herman has had a wild life,” Dennehy said.
Herman was kidnapped from a viewing pond at Roaring River hatchery in 1983, and a man once jumped into his pond and stabbed him with a knife.
Herman has been nursed back to health so many times, ODFW said his caretakers are on guard for any people who would seek to disturb him.
“Nowadays, Herman is kicking back and enjoying the good life at Bonneville,” according to ODFW’s website.
Well, at least he will be once these latest fires subside.
Conditions at the three hatcheries affected by the Eagle Creek Fire improved Wednesday, though some trees are still burning near the hatcheries.
At the Cascade Hatchery, the power is out, but an emergency generator is operating necessary electrical equipment. And crews are building a fire line and planning controlled burns to help protect the Oxbow Hatchery.
ODFW is also preparing for possible emergency evacuations of fish stocks, and has trucks and raceway space ready to go if fish — including Herman — need to move.