Santiam Canyon


Mountain Lions

USDA National Wildlife Research Center media archives:

Also know as cougars, pumas, or panthers ( Mountain lions are large, slender cats. The general coloration is a yellowish brown. Cougars use a wide variety of habitats including mountainous coniferous forests, lowland tropical forests, grassland, dry brush country, swamps, and any areas with adequate cover and prey. They prefer dense vegetation, caves, and rocky crevices provide shelter (Dewey, T. and A. Shivaraju).

Sightings are frequent to moderate in the Santiam Canyon and attacks are very rare. However, these animals can posed a very serious threat to human and their safety. If attacked, face the lion and back away slowly. Make yourself large and shout. Do not provoke the animal, but if attacked, fight back. Cougars are generally wary of people and try to avoid contact with humans.

Mountain Lions are a natural part of the areas’ ecosystem.


Bull Elk Cervus canadensis by MONGO

The elk is one of the largest species of deer in the world and one of the largest mammals in North America. Elk range in forest and forest-edge habitat, feeding on grasses, plants, leaves and bark. Elk prefer open woodlands and avoid dense unbroken forests (Senseman, R.). Elk can be found in coniferous swamps, clear cuts, aspen-hardwood forests, and coniferous-hardwood forests ( Elk browse in the early morning and late evening and they are generally inactive during the day and the middle of the night; this is when they spend most of their time chewing their cud.

Elk have a close association with white-tailed deer, sharing similar environments and similar habitats (Senseman, R.)

Males engage in ritualized mating behaviors during the rut, including posturing, antler wrestling and bugling, a loud series of screams which establishes dominance over other males and attracts females. The bugle call is one of the most distinctive calls in nature. Elk have keen senses of smell, hearing, and vision. They communicate with other elk using all of these senses, as well as touch.

Male elk have large antlers which are shed each year. Antlers are made of bone which can grow at a rate of 2.5 cm (1 inch) per day. While actively growing, the antlers are covered with and protected by a soft layer of highly vascularised skin known as velvet. The velvet is shed in the summer when the antlers have fully developed. The formation and retention of antlers is testosterone-driven. After the breeding season in late fall, the level of pheromones released during estrus declines in the environment and the testosterone levels of males drop as a consequence. This drop in testosterone leads to the shedding of antlers, usually in the early winter.

Elk are hunted as a game species; the meat is leaner and higher in protein than beef or chicken ( Hunting is a fairly popular recreational sport within the Canyon.

White-tailed Deer

USDA photo by Scott Bauer

Inhabitat the same areas as elk and are common in the North Santiam Watershed.

Northern Spotted Owl

Photo by DakotaKahn: This image or recording is the work of an U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

These owls are medium-sized dark brown and are sixteen to nineteen inches in length and one to one and one sixth pounds in weight; the wingspan is approximately forty two inches ( This owl species is sexually dimorphic with the females being larger than the males (Emiley, A.). They have dark eyes contrary to most owls which have light eyes (

The Northern Spotted Owl primarily inhabits old growth forests in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and northern California (Emiley, A.). It nests in cavities or on platforms in large trees and will use abandoned nests of other species ( They prefer these forests because they provide a canopy for protection from predators and the elements, large open spaces for flight, wood debris for nests, and old hollow trees for nesting sites. Spotted owls mate for life and remain in the same geographical areas year after year. They are territorial (Emiley, A.). Northern Spotted Owls do not migrate, but they may shift their ranges slightly in response to seasonal changes.

Most Spotted Owls occur on US federal lands (Forest Service, Bureau of Land Managament, and National Park Service lands), although significant numbers occur on state lands in all three states, and on private and tribal properties (

There are approximately three to five thousand pairs remaining in the wild and the Canadian population is currently less than 20 birds. As a result of declining habitat, there are fewer than 1,200 pairs in Oregon


Since the owls became threatened in 1990, logging in old growth forests has been restricted, resulting in job loss and economic disruption in the Pacific northwest. This has become a very important political and economic issue. Harvesting of old growth forests affects the owls by decreasing the area of appropriate habitat. Somewhere between 54% and 99% of appropriate habitat has been lost. Forests can be reinhabited 40-100 years after logging if snags, coarse debris, and some trees with cavities are left by loggers. Recently, the survival rate of the juveniles has also been a problem. Protecting old growth forests would protect these owls, but the human costs are high. Northern Spotted Owls have been studied extensively, and they are the subject of much current debate and litigation (Emiley, A.).

Logging in national forests was stopped by court order in 1991.The logging industry estimated up to 30,000 of 168,000 jobs would be lost because of the owl’s status, which agreed closely with a Forest Service estimate. Harvests of timber in the Pacific Northwest were reduced by 80%, decreasing the supply of lumber and increasing prices. The decline in jobs was already in progress because of dwindling old-growth forest harvests and automation of the lumber industry. Subsequent research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison showed that logging jobs had been in a long decline and that environmental protection was not a significant factor in job loss. From 1947 to 1964, the number of logging jobs declined 90%. Starting with the Wilderness Act of 1964, environmental protection saved 51,000 jobs in the Pacific Northwest.

The controversy pitted individual loggers and small sawmill owners against environmentalists. Bumper stickers reading Kill a Spotted Owl—Save a Logger and I Like Spotted Owls—Fried appeared to support the loggers. Plastic spotted owls were hung in effigy in Oregon sawmills. The logging industry, in response to continued bad publicity, started the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. While timber interests and conservatives have cited the Northern Spotted Owl as an example of excessive or misguided environmental protection, many environmentalists view the owl as an “indicator species,” or “canary in a coal mine” whose preservation has created protection for an entire threatened ecosystem.

Protection of the owl, under both the Endangered Species Act and the National Forest Management Act, has led to significant changes in forest practices in the northwest. President Clinton’s controversial Northwest Forest Plan of 1994 was designed primarily to protect owls and other species dependent on old-growth forests while ensuring a certain amount of timber harvest. Although the result was much less logging, industry automation and the new law meant the loss of thousands of jobs.

The debate has cooled somewhat over the years, with little response from environmentalists as the owl’s population continues to decline by 3.7 percent per year. In 2007, the USFWS proposed new recovery plans intended to guide for all management actions on lands where spotted owls occur, and to aid in recovery of the species. A new emphasis on control of barred owl populations through culling has been criticized, with at least one scientist on the USFWS recovery team calling this proposal “a deception to deflect blame away from habitat destruction”.

Barred Owls in the west occur in both young and old forest and are thought to displace spotted owls from their territories in old growth and mature forests. Additional threats to Spotted Owls include substantial loss of habitat to wildfire and forest diseases, and also the West Nile Virus (

As of now, there is no adequete solution to this problem and it is still up for debate.


Photo by NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) retrieved on June 12, 2008

Ospreys Fern Ridge Reservoir Oregon

Photo orginally from the United States Army Corps of Engineers

Also known as the seahawk or ocean hawk ( .  The osprey’s diet consists of 99% fish (Kirchbaum, K. and P. Watkins).  The pads of the feet of the osprey are textured to better assist in the catching and gripping of fish (  The Osprey tolerates a wide variety of habitats, nesting in any location near a body of water providing an adequate food supply and it is found on all continents except Antarctica Kirchbaum, K. and P. Watkins). (   One can identified an osprey by looking for a bright white underneath, with dark brown patches at the carpal joints and a mottled dark brown necklace. Other identifying markings include a dark stripe through each eye (yellow irises seen in adults), and a dark brown back (Kirchbaum, K. and P. Watkins).

Osperys are frequently seen diving for fish at Detroit Lake.

Kokanee Salmon

Sockeye Salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka). Photo by Timothy Knepp of the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Sockeye salmon, also called red or blueback salmon. The same species when it occurs in landlocked bodies of water is called the Kokanee. It is the third most common species of Pacific salmon, after Pink and Chum salmon.

A Sockeye can grow up to 33 inches in length and weigh 6 to 8 pounds.

Sockeye Salmon, unlike the other species of Pacific Salmon, feed almost exclusively on plankton. They are able to do this as a result of their many gill rakers, which strain the plankton from the water. It is speculated that this diet is the reason for the hue that is operant in their flesh ( Salman).

Kokanee salmon are found in the Detroit Lake Reservoir and at the Marion Forks Fish Hatchery.

Chinook Salmon

Oncorhynchus tshawytscha by Haplochromis

Chinook Salmon (also called king salmon, tyee salmon, blackmouth salmon, Columbia River salmon, black salmon) as well as others (Scott, C).

The Chinook Salmon is the largest of all Pacific salmon species, often larger than 100 lbs and longer than 5 ft. For spawning, both males and females develop a reddish hue on the sides, although males may be deeper in color.

Chinook Salmon are typically divided into “races” with “spring chinook”, “summer chinook”, and “fall chinook” being most common. Races are determined by the timing of adult entry into fresh water.

The Chinook Salmon is anadromous– born in freshwater, migrating to the ocean, and returning as mature adults to their natal streams to spawn. Freshwater streams, estuaries, and the open ocean are all important habitats. The freshwater streams are relatively deep with course gravel. The water must be cool, under 14 C for maximum survival, and fast flowing. Estuaries provide a transition zone between the freshwater and saltwater and the more vegetation the better because there will be more feeding and hiding opportunities. At sea, Chinook Salmon can either stay close to shore or migrate thousands of miles to deep in the Pacific. Chinook Salmon make great migrations out to the deepest parts of the ocean and returning as mature adults to their natal streams. In order to return to the exact right stream, they use sun-compass orientation out in the open ocean and then smell to get them to the right stream.

Spawning Chinook Salmon are the keystone species in many streams because so many other species rely on them for food. In the ocean, they are often one of the top predators.

The Chinook Salmon is very important to commercial, recreational, and subsistence fishermen. It has always been central to the Native American lifestyle on the Pacific coast, and now much of the economy of the Pacific Northwest is based on it. Despite being relatively rare (compared to other Pacific Salmon species) it is the most commercially valuable (Scott, C).

Chinook salmon need five things to survive:

  1. food,
  2. spawning habitat,
  3. ocean habitat,
  4. cold clean, oxygenated water, and
  5. other salmon

When one of these five variables is compromised, the affected salmon stock can decline.

Many agencies have been set up to protect this species, including the Pacific Fisheries Management Council, the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council, and the National Marine Fisheries Service. The federal Magnuson-Stevens Act was made to protect the Essential Fish Habitat, the waters and substrates necessary to fish for spawning, breeding, feeding and growing to maturity. The Sustainable Fisheries Act has amended the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

The main causes for the declining fish populations are overfishing, damming and diverting water, habitat destruction, and introducing hatchery populations. Overfishing has decreased population sizes enough that all other causes, along with natural predation, can have extreme effects, and population sizes decrease rapidly. Damming causes decline because it blocks adults from returning to their birthplace and because smolts often get sucked into the turbines of hydroelectric dams and are killed. Diverting water away from salmon streams causes water temperature to rise, reducing the oxygen carrying capacity of the water. Temperatures could also become fatally high in the summer. Reduced water levels could expose eggs in the winter, or flows could be too low to carry smolts out to sea. Habitat destruction, including logging, clearing rivers, pollution, and wetlands destruction, take away shade and necessary protection for juveniles. After logging has changed runoff patterns, streams may contain too much silt and become uninhabitable. Pollution can cause many physiological problems, including increased susceptibiity to pathogens. Introducing hatchery populations adds to the decline because the introduced populations interbreed with the native populations and can reduce resistence to disease. Some populations of chinook salmon are listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act as either threatened or endangered; the Upper Willamette runs for example (Listed as threatened). Fisheries in the U.S. and Canada are limited by impacts to weak and endangered salmon runs (

Spring Chinook are blah blah blah yatta yatta yatta Marions Forks Fish Hatchery and such!

Rainbow Trout

Steelhead is another name for the rainbow trout, also called the redband trout! The ocean going (anadromous) form (including those returning for spawning) are known as steelhead, or ocean trout (Australia) .

Rainbow trout are unusual in that there are two forms which sometimes share the same habitat. The form called “steelhead” migrate to the ocean, though they must return to fresh water to reproduce. The freshwater form is called “rainbow trout”, based on the broad red band along their sides. Steelhead are exactly the same species as rainbow trout. However, the difference is anadromy. After going to sea, their color changes, including loss of the red band. They stay at sea for 1-4 years, and return to fresh water to spawn. Rainbows stay in fresh water their whole lives (

American Beaver

Photo by Pennkayaker on 11:34, 6 July 2006

The American Beaver is a large semi-aquatic rodent with a rounded head, a large flat paddle-shaped tail and webbed hind feet and is the largest rodent found in North America.

Beavers are mainly active at night. They are excellent swimmers but are more vulnerable on land and tend to remain in the water as much as possible. They are able to remain submerged for up to 15 minutes. A scent gland near their genitals secretes an oily substance known as castoreum which is used to waterproof its fur. A thick layer of fat under its skin insulates the beaver from its cold water environment. The eyes are covered by a nictitating membrane which allows the beaver to see underwater. Their nostrils and ears are sealed while submerged. The flat, scaly tail is used to signal danger and also serves as a source of fat storage (

Beavers eat bark and cambium (the softer growing tissue under the bark of trees). Their favorites include willow, maple, poplar, beech, birch, alder, and aspen trees. They also eat water vegetation, as well as buds, and roots. Cellulose, which usually can not be digested by mammals, is a major component of their diet  (Anderson, R).

Their dams help reduce soil erosion and can help reduce flooding. Beavers can also be benefical to the environment by raising the water table, which acts as a purifying system for the water. This happens because silt occurs upstream from dams, and toxins are then broken down. However, they can destroy it also. Dams slow the flow of water in fast streams, changing the flora and fauna and sometimes creating silting. They may flood low-lying areas, sometimes causing extensive loss of timber (

Beavers can sometimes be seen in the North Santiam River during the day and in the evening.


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