>Wildlife Update – 9/27/08

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Send in Your Wildlife Reports. The wildlife updates are the reason many have requested to be on the Illahee Community Update list. We will try to keep these updates coming, but we need your input. And, don’t hesitate to remind us as we receive many emails each day and sometimes important items get overlooked.

Bird Data Near Gilberton Creek. Vic Ulsh recently spoke with Kate Kuhlman of Great Peninsula Conservancy (GPC). GPC is working on potential grant opportunities which could lead to their acquisition of property at/near the mouth of Gilberton Creek. As you know, this creek was severely altered during last December’s major flood event. GPC already owns land along this creek. They are contemplating additional land with hopes of habitat restoration work. One area of information which they are looking for assistance is any bird inventory data, including shore birds, in this area. Might anyone in the Illahee Community have any insight on bird activity near Gilberton Creek? Please provide feedback to Vic Ulsh at (360) 479-6900 or vic@bradleyscottinc.com

How Many Salmon Were There In Illahee Creek? The other day we noted that the community was trying to restore salmon to near historic levels and someone asked whether Illahee Creek was a significant salmon stream and just what were the historic levels. The text below is the answer we provided and now others are trying to talk with other old timers to see what they remember. Let us know if you have any additional historical fish information or information of on whether Dr. Schutt had salmon in his reservoir.

When I got involved with Illahee Creek that was one of my first thoughts was what was this stream like before the area was settled. Was this small stream, that flows year round, ever a significant salmon stream?

It does have a history of people getting salmon from it. Ed Fischer, who is now 94 years old, tells about going to LaMotte Creek (Illahee Creek) to get salmon for his mother to smoke and can. Other old timers talk about residents filling up wagons with salmon from the creek. Dr. Ray Schutt (who started the Schutt clinic) put in a small dam on the creek, which then was referred to a Schutt Creek. (Seems like the creek was named by whoever lived at the mouth, until it was finally officially named Illahee Creek.) There were reports of lots of fish and deep pools along the creek corridor during those intervening years, though evidently not the salmon runs of the earlier years.

Illahee Road was put in in the 1930’s with two 36″ culverts which were noted by some as being salmon barriers. They were replaced in 1999 with a box culvert 14′ by 9′ which was slowly been filling up with sediment. During the December 3, 2007 storm the culvert filled up almost to the top and was recently cleaned out by the county.

I don’t think Illahee Creek was ever a big producer of salmon like some of the other creeks. Because it is a small stream it was likely very easy for early settlers to clean out the salmon. Ed Fischer said they would simply “scoop” the salmon out of the creek.

The salmon I have personally seen in the stream are chum and coho, and some pretty good sized ones at that. When the county cleaned out the culvert I got a chance to watch them move some of the coho fry from the upstream net past the work area and I, like the workers, were surprised by the numbers considering the Dec 3rd storms impact on the creek and culvert. Another of the old time residents who died a year ago and was in his 90’s was Meredith Jones, a sheet metal planner and estimator, who talked about watching steelhead follow spawning salmon to eat their eggs. Something that can only probably be seen in small streams like Illahee Creek.

I think the reason for it not being a top producer is of its small size and short length, coupled with the fact that it was probably decimated early on by the locals taking too many of the easily accessible fish.

There have been a number of fisheries biologists who have looked at Illahee Creek over the years. The latest was part of a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant. They recommended the Schutt dam be taken out or broken up. They said the sedimentation problems have filled up the pools necessary for good salmon habitat. And they recommended that beaver be used to help with getting more pools in the creek. We will soon get another report regarding getting control of the stormwater surges as part of a Department of Ecology grant. Lots of action for a small stream, but if we don’t do something we will end up with another road washout like happened with Gilberton Creek.

Owl Reports. We heard from residents near the 3rd Street wetland areas that they regularly see owls in the area, along with deer.

Squid Report. The squid being caught at the Illahee Community Dock the other night were plentiful, but small.

Cutthroat Jumping. Another report by a waterfront resident noted that cutthroat have been seen jumping along the shoreline.

Nudibranch at Brownsville Marina. This might be a new term for many. These are “soft-bodied, shell-less marine opisthobranch gastropod mollusks, which are noted for their often extraordinary colors and striking forms.” We saw one earlier this month at the Brownsville Marina and thought it worth including in this update, see attached photo. Jeff Adams of the UW Sea Grant program identified it for us as “Giant nudibranch – Dendronotus iris – to 12″ long,” and “…ideal underwater video subject, for either its feeding lunge at a tube-dwelling anemone or its entrancing dance in the water column, well off the bottom.” Picture credits go to Bob Stephens of Knoxville, Tenn who was on the boat with us and had his camera ready. 

Jim Aho