January 09, 2012
By John Larison
A Chinook Salmon Giving a Little Back.
The beaches of West Coast rivers--or rather those rivers that still retain their salmon runs--are blessed by the stinky presence of rotting chinook salmon these days. The smell might turn your nose, but don't be fooled. This is a sacred sight.
Rivers run downstream, and carry with them a watershed's nutrients. Salmon and steelhead juveniles are carried out to sea too, where they gorge and grow. When they return, they bring with them the bounty of the sea; they are one of the only mechanisms for moving nutrients UP a watershed.
This fish was rotting on a beach, but a few days back I found a rotting coho hundreds of yards up from the river, dragged there by a black bear, based on the tracks. He'd eaten the eyes and cheeks and belly, and left the rest for the land to swallow.