Endangered steelhead in Willamette, Santiam continue rebound after 33 sea lions killed

Statesman Journal

At one point on the brink of extinction, winter steelhead in the Upper Willamette River system continued to show improved numbers this season.

Wildlife managers said this year’s run has been bolstered, for the second year in a row, by a program that killed sea lions preying on chrome fish near Willamette Falls.

A total of 4,760 winter steelhead have returned above Willamette Falls and spread into rivers including the North Santiam so far this year, with their projected numbers likely to reach 6,500, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

That would be the highest number since 2012 and could indicate an encouraging rebound, ODFW biologist Sean Clements said. It’s still well below historic numbers that often eclipsed 20,000 in the 1980s.

“It’s definitely a hopeful sign that the run may be on the mend,” Clements said.

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