Chum salmon, the second largest of our five local species of salmon, is just beginning to return for its every other year spawning event. In from the Pacific Ocean after two years of maturing, these fish are now coming back to the stream of their birth, where they will hopefully find a mate and then ultimately die. But this isn’t the end of these fish; instead, by ending their current lives in one of our local streams (just a short distance from salt water) where they provide nutrients to their young fish, called alevins.
The returning adults are prized not only by fisherpeople, but by our local wildlife as well. Eagles, ospreys, bear, bobcat and raccoons wait expectantly at the stream entrances for the fish’s return, and then to enjoy their meals in peace, they quickly drag the often still-kicking fish up into the forest. But it doesn’t end here, for recent research shows that the leftovers leach into the soil and feeds the trees too, which in turn rain organic debris down on the stream to feed and shelter the young fish. Nature is a circle, and the more we learn, the more we realize everything is connected to something else.
Larry Eifert paints and writes about wild places. His work can be seen in many national parks across America – and at larryeifert.com.