Threatened chum salmon make Columbia River comeback - KPTV - FOX 12

Threatened chum salmon make Columbia River comeback

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Chum salmon (Photo: Bonneville Power Administration) Chum salmon (Photo: Bonneville Power Administration)
Chum salmon in Columbia River (Image: Bonneville Power Administration) Chum salmon in Columbia River (Image: Bonneville Power Administration)
Chum salmon in Columbia River (Image: Bonneville Power Administration) Chum salmon in Columbia River (Image: Bonneville Power Administration)
PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

Biologists believe the Columbia River might see its largest run of chum salmon in more than a decade.

The 2015 run could reach 20,000, according to the Bonneville Power Administration, which would make it the largest since 2002.

Chum salmon are also called "dog" salmon due to their canine-like teeth. They are the last salmon of the year to return to the Columbia to spawn and their young are the first to leave for the ocean in the spring.

The annual run of Columbia River chum salmon historically numbered more than 1 million.

However, habitat loss and other factors caused their numbers to plummet during the last century to a low of just a few thousand per year, according to the BPA.

The federal government listed Columbia River chum as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1999.

The BPA has funded two hatchery programs and construction of new spawning habitat for chum in several areas of the lower Columbia River.

In 2011, BPA increased the capacity of two chum salmon spawning channels located on tributaries just below Bonneville Dam.

BPA, along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other federal partners, manages river flows from Bonneville Dam to keep chum salmon redds – or nests of eggs – under water during critical times of the year.

Chum salmon generally spawn in the lower part of the Columbia River below Bonneville Dam, preferring tributaries where warm ground water pushes up through spawning gravel. The warm water quickly incubates their eggs.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is also building a new spawning channel for chum salmon on the Lewis River. It should be completed by summer 2016.

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