The Chinook and the Beaver

The Chinook and the Beaver

What’s the relationship between Oregon’s official fish and animal?

Chinook salmon know their way over a beaver dam. They weren’t born yesterday. How do you think they’ve been making the journey from rivers to oceans and back for five million or so years?

Beaver ponds are sanctuaries for young salmon.

We know that beavers are smart. Salmon are also smart. If stopped by a dam, they rest there and wait for a heavy rain or a change in the tide. When the water level lifts, they can easily jump the dam. Even juveniles a few inches long can make it. Four-inch long fish have been seen ascending dams as high as six feet. In some ways beaver dams create a fish ladder.

Both animals understand water, rain, and tides.

Removing beaver dams actually eliminates more salmon habitat than it helps.

A beaver pond functions like a nursery to young salmon. It has all the necessities: food, shelter, calm water, and safety from flooding.

Before we humans arrived, beavers and chinook were plentiful and worked out how to live together in harmony.

These two animals have a lot in common. The Chinook salmon is Oregon’s state fish; the beaver is Oregon’s state animal. They are both state representatives and keystone species.

Keystone species are vital contributors to the health and survival of many other species. A keystone is literally the central piece that holds a stone arch together. It holds everything in balance.

Chinook salmon are in need of everyone’s help right now. The beavers are doing their part by providing safe havens.

Native people have prayers for salmon as well as the land. Part of one prayer goes like this:

“We thank you for planting these berries,
for putting the game in the valleys,
and the fish in the rivers,
so that your children can survive.
We thank you that we can gather the berries and catch the salmon.”

-From Yakimas and Chehalis.

-Mary Ann Petersen, Guest Blogger

Mary Ann is a writer living in Eugene, Oregon. In a past life she may have been a beaver. If not, she was definitely a kingfisher or a crow.

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