Seven Summers

Seven summers.  Counting that first summer that Dr. Behnke spent with ODFW in 2006 —and counting this summer—there will have been seven summers of sentient opportunity where the remnant of alvordensis in ***** Creek is concerned.

Seven summers of opportunity to work a miracle.  Seven summers of the opportunity to resurrect and preserve an “extinct” species of cutthroat trout.  Seven summers with the opportunity to preserve the distinct beauty and incredible resiliency of a desert survivor that has carved its own unique niche into history: and that still exerts its presence in the SE Oregon basin and range, in spite of overwhelming odds against survival.

Seven summers of opportunity to document the habitat, habits and divergent behavior of this rare survivor.   Seven summers of opportunity to validate genetic composition via alvordensis specimens of unadulterated trout taken many decades ago by ichthyologists Hubbs and Miller: perfectly preserved in the University of Michigan Museum Collection.

Seven summers of opportunity for governmental agencies to act, to show their mettle — and seven summers for the concerned public to get involved: to show their support for the actions of biologists who are their stewards of these public resources.  Seven summers of opportunity for geneticists to show themselves as true champions for the “lost,” and as harbingers for the “found,” and as honest intelligent pursuers of the truth above all else.

Indeed, the most vital consideration of all; what will we have to show for seven summers?

The first summer, Dr. Behnke identified trout of the Alvord phenotype in this tiny SE Oregon stream—and subsequently published the results of his finding in the AboutTrout column of Trout Magazine—the magazine of Trout Unlimited.  Dr. Behnke noted that he was happily surprised to find all of the trout he examined from ***** Creek appeared to be Lahontans, and some had the appearance of the Alvord cutthroat as illustrated by Joseph Tomelleri…  He went on to say that this resemblance to the Alvord cutthroat adds a measure of defini­tiveness to the possibility he had discussed in the fall 2005 Trout article entitled “IvoryBilled Trout.

The second summer, the above column had just hit the presses just before springtime had kicked into gear.   Dr. Behnke presented a report to the Oregon Chapter of the American Fisheries Society, Corvallis, Oregon, which was published in Redband Trout – Resiliency and Challenge in a Changing Landscape.   He essentially puts a few new “pieces of the puzzle” together where the translocation of Alvord cutthroat trout from Trout Creek to the ****** Basin are concerned, and relates a history of trout being in ***** Creek that predates the stocking records of ODFW — and corroborates his earlier surmising in Ivory-Billed Trout.

He concludes that, if his assessment is correct “what remains of the Alvord subspecies is incorporated into the trout now found in ***** Creek.”

Yet, it seems that very little happened on the stream that second summer.  Truly, if anyone has photos, notes or anything from 2007, please feel free to let us know, as we would love to include it in this summary of activity for ***** Creek in 2007.

The third summer, ODFW did send some samples for analysis; 26 clips of random trout from the shocker from ***** Creek, sent to the Peacock Lab at the University of Nevada, Reno . . .  The concept of looking for alvordensis alleles was apparently not considered at that time… Our understanding is that these trout were genotyped at around 20 nuclear micro­­­satellites, and were not seen as being appreciably different from Lahontan cutthroat trout at 20 nuclear microsatellites.

As of the last word, a more detailed look for any unique allelic variants was yet to be done.

That third summer Gary Marston caught an exemplary Alvord phenotype.  And we caught many trout, exhibiting a remarkably wide-range of genetic expression.  Among dozens of trout we landed that summer, a few were what would be described as Alvord phenotypes.

First One 7-2008

A little blurry, but this is the first ***** Creek trout that kept us from running back to the truck in a frenzy as no-see-ums were were “eating us alive” in early July 2008. Beautiful trout – red side – way too heavily spotted all over.

We did write a few letters that year, and began “stirring the pot” a bit, and began a process of finding more detail on the history of the ***** Basin,  growing our correspondence base.

Interesting Female

While there were a few trout that were more “alvordish” landed during the course of that first year – there were a few that were interesting to look at, and puzzling to define based on the known trout types ODFW introduced into *****

We’d established a password protected website for some of the correspondence; but found that it was somewhat cumbersome for those who desired to “peruse the progress-process.”

General Spotting Pattern

Joseph Tomelleri had provided earlier communication regarding the history of the Alvord cutthroat trout, and remote locations where there might still be a possibility to find a relict remnant of alvordensis…  and we continue to explore possible leads as opportunity allows.

Trout Creek Headwaters

This is a closeup of a trout caught in the uppermost headwaters of Trout Creek, from back in the day when we were still hoping that alvordensis might be there… It was disheartening to see how pervasive the redbands were.

The fourth summer, some researchers, scientists, illustrators and geneticists became more actively aware of and involved where the Alvord phenotypes in ***** Creek are concerned.

Anniversary - Classic Alvord

It was on the anniversary of the landing of the first trout that so captured our interest in ***** Creek, that we found an area that seemed to be more densely populated with Alvord phenotypes. …This was a euphoric experience!!

Alvord Cutthroat Trout by Joseph Tomelleri

Patrick Trotter spent some time on the stream with us that fall.  Our favorite haunts were showing themselves remarkably difficult in yielding respectable phenotypes to observe —but late in the trip, at the most accessible meadow, the tell-tale characteristics of trout that would have at least discernable Alvord genes being expressed did finally show themselves.

Patrick exhibited the patient and keen observation skills a true scientist brings to the table.

In the course of time, much of the dialogue and photos from the earlier password protected site were sent to the wordpress site that you are currently perusing.   (It’s at least easier to view and access, and to keep reasonably updated.)

The fifth summer, ODFW personnel along with staff from Trout Unlimited and a few native trout enthusiasts caught a couple handfuls of phenotypes, and sent a handful of fin clips via Trout Unlimited to the Peacock Lab at the University of Nevada, Reno, with the intent of having better representative alvordensis samples — for comparison with the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology Hubbs collection of specimens from Trout and Virgin Creeks.

A few trips to ***** Creek were made prior to the trip with ODFW; to hone in on Alvord locations, as possible, in order to be better prepared for the time in the field with ODFW. Statistically, ODFW identified 11 of 55 of the trout taken (for 20%) as Alvord phenotypes.


This was the first summer that we utilized what are called ‘photoariums’ streamside to capture photos of the most compelling of the Alvord phenotypes found


It seems that the photoarium worked fairly well to capture left-side “scientific” views of the trout for size, true shape, pigmentation and spotting patterns.

One of our concerns is that the “statistics” make things look relatively “easy,” so that a misconception about the ratio of pheno-types could ensue.  In reality, there were quite a few trout that the men from Trout Unlimited and our team just turned loose, that were not recorded in ODFW’s stats—and the actual ratio of Alvord phenotypes, in contrast with the total, is far removed from 1:5  (we believe, at best, 1:20)…        

That doesn’t mean that they aren’t there; it simply means that to locate ideal Alvord phenotypes a lot of henshawi and hum-boldtensis have to pass through the net.

Indeed, it is by being alert for respectable Alvord phenotypes, that they are located; And when you find one—look for others



The sixth summer, well, it brought somewhat challenging times. It brought lots of waiting and one of the wettest springsummers on record for the region.  It also was a challenging summer for time and opportunity to get onto the stream.

We seemed to find it a banner “nursery year,” with lots of little juveniles by mid-summer…

Alvordensis Photoarium

And, we were able to capture a few photos of ‘old friends’while visiting in early autumn…

Alvord Phenotype

An optimal Alvord phenotype that meets most of the Hubbs’ and Behnke identifiers, including spotting pattern, pigmentation, lateral series scales, estimated gill rakers, basibranchial teeth and other visible meristic indicators.

This winter; any regulations changes are yet to be determined, though many native trout enthusiasts have shown the option of keeping non-Alvords as their preference.  There is a bit of an update from Rhine T. Messmer/ODFW as to where this process is at:

“An update on where ODFW is on the reviews of public proposals:  I have received almost all of the Staff Reviews from the field.  There are a few still to come.  I had to reschedule the Fish Division-Oregon State Police review on April 10 to accommodate late reviews and some personal issues.  This has given me more time to review your proposals so I can better discuss them with staff during the reviews.

“I will be sending out a summary document containing all public proposals and final staff reviews once Fish Division-OSP reviews are complete. This way, all project sponsors will receive a full public record of public proposals and ODFW staff reviews.  This document will also be made available on the ODFW Angling Regulation Development Website.  I hope to have this document completed a few days following the April 10th meeting and sent to you by the April 13.

“I will also send out information on future actions of passed and deferred proposals with the final reviews.  Rejected proposals will be dropped from the process, but will be put into a summary document for part of the August Commission Packet.  This summary will be information only, and rejected proposals will not be subject to future Commission action.

“Thanks again for participating in the Public Process.”

We’ll continue to post what new information we have or receive from ODFW.

And finally — the seventh summer:    Well, that is to be continued . . .

© KOD 3-2012

About kortumofdiscovery

Kortum of Discovery (a slight play on Lewis & Clark's Corps of Discovery) is a family team that is Affirming the Exceptional Beauty of Nature, one Adventure at a Time. With a focus toward rare and endangered species in the Great Basin and American west: discoveries, unique methodologies, and many “tall tales to tell” are continually being shared around the campfire!
This entry was posted in Of Fauna and Flora. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s