Baby endangered California salmon use different rivers than expected, research shows

The Sacramento Bee –

Biologists assumed baby winter-run Chinook salmon hung out in the Sacramento River where they hatched until they grew large enough to make the trip downstream to the Pacific Ocean.

A recently released scientific study challenges that assumption – and may have implications in how fisheries agencies manage Sacramento Valley waterways to protect the critically endangered fish.

In a paper published online last week in the journal Biological Conservation, a team of California researchers revealed a surprising finding: Juvenile winter-run Chinook aren’t just using the Sacramento River as rearing habitat; after hatching, they also venture in large numbers into the river’s tributaries, including creeks that feed into it below Redding, as well the Feather and the American rivers.

Winter-run Chinook are a distinct species of salmon that return each year to spawn and die in the Sacramento River near Redding. As recently as the 1960s, tens of thousands of adult fish used to make the one-way journey.

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