An otter was scooped out of the salmon containment area in the Saanich fish fence during the fall salmon count on Nov. 4 – much to the surprise of volunteers. (Photo courtesy Dorothy Chambers)

An otter was scooped out of the salmon containment area in the Saanich fish fence during the fall salmon count on Nov. 4 – much to the surprise of volunteers. (Photo courtesy Dorothy Chambers)

Otters foil annual salmon count at Saanich fish fence

Seasonal tally ends early with 176 coho passing up Colquitz River to spawn

A family of sneaky otters has forced the annual Colquitz River salmon count in the Cuthbert Holmes Park to end early as volunteers opt to remove the fish fence for the season.

Every fall, the volunteers with Salmon in the City – a project funded by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) – install fish fence panels in the river to temporarily trap salmon that swim through so that the team can monitor the population and collect data for the DFO. In a typical year, volunteers attend the fish fence every day from September to December to assess the age, species, health and sex of the salmon coming up the river to spawn.

READ ALSO: Bright red salmon appear at Saanich’s Colquitz River fish fence

This September, a new trap bottom was installed to keep otters from swimming into the fish containment area because in years past they’d been known to sneak in from underneath to steal salmon, explained volunteer and environmental advocate Dorothy Chambers. She added that while the volunteers were putting in the new bottom, the little predators appeared to be watching and “assessing their next entry plan.”

The first fish of 2020 began to appear in early October and for about three weeks volunteers counted fish – often under the curious gaze of local preschool classes and seniors’ walking groups, Chambers said. However, after less than a month of fish counting and a hard-fought battle against a family of five otters that circled the trap “like sharks,” volunteers have admitted defeat.

READ ALSO: Salmon counters ‘disappointed’ with 119 cohos in Colquitz this season

“The otters have won and they are now entering the trap through the small salmon opening,” she explained, adding that one otter was actually hauled out of the trap in the net used to scoop salmon up for counting on Nov. 4.

“After consultation with the volunteers and DFO, it is clear we must remove the fence panels and give the salmon free access, without the trap to hinder their upstream travels,” Chambers said.

She emphasized that volunteers’ priority is always ensuring that the “urban salmon” are healthy and able to reach their spawning grounds.

READ ALSO: Saanich schoolkids observe salmon dissections in Cuthbert Holmes Park

The fish fence panels were removed on Nov. 6 and the 2020 salmon has ended. The official tally collected by volunteers showed that a total of 176 coho – 126 young males, 22 older males and 28 females – and four cutthroat trout came up the Colquitz River this year, Chambers said.

She thanked volunteers for their tireless work and commitment to the salmon counting project.


@devonscarlett
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

District of SaanichFishparksSalmon

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

SD62 bus driver Kerry Zado said it’s common to see drivers lose their patience and pass by his bus while he’s picking up students during the morning commute. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
School bus driver laments motorists who pass while red lights are flashing

All buses in Sooke School District outfitted with stop sign cameras

Metchosin Coun. Kyara Kahakauwila is stepping down as deputy mayor following controversy over her decision to travel to Mexico in December. (Black Press Media file photo)
Councillor steps down as deputy mayor of Metchosin after controversial trip to Mexico

Mayor hopeful mediation will help council get back to the business of community

Victoria police are seeking home surveillance video and witnesses following a prowling incident in Esquimalt Jan. 20. (Black Press Media file photo)
Esquimalt prowler removes air conditioner, peers into person’s home

VicPD is seeking video footage, witnesses following Jan. 20 incident

West Shore RCMP seized a stolen fish finder and drugs after searching a Colwood home Jan. 9. (Black Press Media file photo)
Search of Colwood home reveals stolen fish finder, drug trafficking evidence

West Shore RCMP suspect a 46-year-old woman is responsible

(Black Press Media files)
Transport Canada not budging on enclosed deck rules, despite calls from BC Ferries union

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

(Black Press Media file photo)
From arts to environment, nominate your West Shore hero

Nominations for the Goldstream Gazetteā€™s Local Hero awards are open

Vancouver Canucks’ Travis Hamonic grabs Montreal Canadiens’ Josh Anderson by the face during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horvat scores winner as Canucks dump Habs 6-5 in shootout thriller

Vancouver and Montreal clash again Thursday night

Rod Bitten of Union Bay won $500,000 in the Lotto Max draw on Jan. 15. Photo supplied
Vancouver Island electrician gets shocking surprise with $500K Extra win

Rod Bitten has been hard at work with home renovations, which is… Continue reading

Oyster River Fire Rescue members were called out to a suspicious fire in Black Creek. Two vehicles parked at a private residence were destroyed by fire. Photo courtesy Oyster River Fire Rescue
Suspicious fire destroys two vehicles at Vancouver Island residence

Oyster River Fire Rescue personnel were dispatched to a fire at a… Continue reading

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

A suspect has been arrested in connection with fires at Drinkwater Elementary (pictured) and École Mount Prevost. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Arson suspect arrested after fires at Cowichan Valley schools

Drinkwater Elementary and Mount Prevost schools hit within a week

Most Read