Sometimes it is so difficult to write a post about Alvord phenotypes . . . Especially when the most recent news does not seem to be particularly encouraging, uplifting, edifying . . .
Yet much as ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder;’ so it is that whether positive précises are derived, whether lasting lessons can be learned, whether constructive courses of action can be formed, whether we see the cup as not being empty — depends so on our resiliency and resolution as native trout enthusiasts — and our inclination to hope for, and to do, all that we can in behalf of a remnant of a strain of trout that may now simply number in the dozens—a few dozen—in a hatchery environment ran by employees of the State of Oregon.
Early in July we were on the system, looking for ‘friends’ in all of the usual places . . . Yet, as we approached our customary haunts we encountered more than just the foreboding sense that the drought is taking a toll on the system and the trout that are present in it.
As quite an eerie backdrop: The Refuge Complex had undertaken a Prescribed Burn in the area late last year: Which left only the charred remains of the shrubs and Junipers that we had formerly used as markers to easily locate our favorite fish hideouts . . . And an ashen texture to the ground, which testified of the minimal precipitation the region has received.
Approximately 450 acres of cut juniper were slated to be burned, as well as 400 to 500 acres of meadow grasses in the meadows and springs areas. Another 125 acres higher in the system were also slated for burning by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
As a testimony to the drought . . .
What were historically deep holes along cut banks covered by long grass were now little more than puddles with sparse cover and little flow to sustain trout through a hot summer.
As we are normally inclined to do; we walked along the System looking for shady pockets and hiding places that the trout use to survive the warmer water and diminished oxygen.
Those hiding places simply were not there. As we traversed a couple hundred yards from our favorite region in the system, I realized that the water flow was roughly the equivalent of just what our garden hose produces . . . But it was now already warmish early in July: and we knew of a certainty that the worst of the heat and drought were yet to come . . .
There are sections that we have enjoyed fishing and catching Alvord phenotypes in the past (just the year before last), yet . . . I didn’t have the heart to pursue those areas — because I have no doubt but that they are dry.
While the saying is that a ‘picture is worth a thousand words,’ and some of the pictures are ‘telling’ in that they reveal reality and tell the whole story where this drought is concerned: I believe that I would be remiss to not include some of the correspondence, and photos, from Cyril — who was on the system later in July than we were.
Some of you may have noted the comment at the end of the last post, where Cyril states:
“. . . after 4 hours of searching, from the headwaters near the ***** creek campground, all the way down past the corral to where the road crosses the creek, I was unable to see any signs of life whatsoever. This is sad news, and I hope that I am wrong, but unfortunately the drought takes no prisoners.”
Off line, in additional correspondence with Cyril, I reiterated the experience we had earlier in the month. Of course, I let him know that we would love to see his photos of the system.
We also talked about the fact that there have been other severe droughts that at least a remnant of the trout seemed to have survived. Perhaps the juveniles have lower oxygen requirements, or perhaps the resiliency to hide and hang out through such difficult times.
Yet, in any case it is a trying time — and a sad personal disappointment for one who has been reading about these trout for a few years and was finally able to make a pilgrimage to see and catch one — and yet may have made such a journey only to affirm their potential extinction in the wild. . . . Here are a couple of pictures that Cyril took while on the system:
And, here are a few more from our visit to the system earlier in July:
Charred landscape along the way . . . not enough rain to bring the grass back into play . . .
Our Vizsla Dori admires a small pretty cutthroat with large parr marks and vivid spots . . .
No sedge or tall grass for protection or security in this section of what remains of the creek
Moss and/or Algae were, unfortunately, quite dominant in the sluggish flow of the ‘stream’
Miraculously, there were still trout surviving even in these ridiculously horrid conditions.
Given opportunity, we hope to make a pilgrimage to the system in August . . . though we hope it will not be like a funeral procession just to validate the corpses along the way . . .
More than ever, we hope that native trout enthusiasts and biologists for the State of Oregon will be truly putting our and their hearts and minds and beings into action; to care and to critically think through the best plans and course to preserve the few dozen trout in their care that may represent the last of the genetic legacy of the Alvord cutthroat trout.
It has been shown to be that it was a timely miracle for Shannon Hurn to capture a baker’s dozen of Alvord phenotypes last spring — and that one was a female — of which now a few dozen progeny still hopefully survive; as potential heirs of the legacy of an extinct strain of desert cutthroat trout.
© Kortum of Discovery, July 2014