Native bull trout reintroduction in Oregon proves it’s possible

On a damp October morning, a troop of wader-clad scientists plunged into Pinhead Creek, an icy Oregon stream around 60 miles southeast of Portland, to search for fish nests.

Finding those nests, called redds, was no easy task:

Since 2011, Allen and his colleagues have relocated 1,758 bull trout into the Clackamas watershed.

It’s an ambitious — and, in some quarters, controversial — attempt to re-establish this threatened predator to part of its former range.

The redd surveys have become an autumn rite, a vital measure of whether the finicky fish are spawning — and whether this landmark program can inspire bull trout reintroduction in other Western rivers.

In the past, bull trout were abundant and widely distributed in the Willamette Basin, including the Clackamas River. They were a historical component of the river’s native fish assemblage that evolved over thousands of years.

Currently, bull trout are extirpated from the Clackamas River Subbasin; there have been no documented sightings of bull trout in the Clackamas River since 1963. The bull trout was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1998.

Efforts to recover the species are underway, including restoring the species to areas from which it has been lost.

See High Country News article & photo credit.

See USFWS bull trout reintroduction page.

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