Salmon Lovers

In the streams where they swim, salmon are critically important to everything from wolves to bears to trees

12-01-2000 // Mark Cheater

If you’re a wild animal living in the Pacific Northwest, the chances are good that a pink-fleshed fish plays an important role in your diet.

According to a recent report by Washington State´s Department of Fish and Wildlife, 137 different species of animals--everything from tiny midges to 5-ton killer whales--depend directly or indirectly on salmon. Several threatened or endangered species--including the grizzly bear, the marbled murrelet, the gray wolf and the bald eagle--are also on the list of salmon lovers.

But because of commercial fishing, logging and damming of rivers in the past century, only a small fraction of the salmon that historically swam up the rivers of the Northwest now reach headwaters to spawn. Fewer spawning salmon means fewer nutrient-rich carcasses to nourish animals in and around the streams. As a result, "we’re starving the streams to death," says Jeff Cederholm, lead author of the report. "A whole suite of wildlife species rely on salmon. We’ve got to wake up to this and provide for as much spawning for wild fish as we can."

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