Salmon egg-stravaganza at Education Center Saturday

January 10, 2018 - 10:12am

Oregon Zoo partners with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for Salmon Egg Festival

The salmon's annual return from the ocean might be the most iconic wildlife spectacle in the region — but equally intriguing, if not quite as splashy, are the salmon's humble beginnings as eggs. Wildlife enthusiasts can get a closer look this weekend during the Salmon Egg Festival, an Oregon Zoo celebration held in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

On Saturday, Jan. 13, from noon to 4 p.m. in the zoo's Education Center, Fish and Wildlife Service experts will be on hand to talk about the salmon life cycle, as the zoo unveils its new salmon-egg aquarium. All activities are free with zoo admission.

"From Alaska to California, salmon connect everything from bears to trees to people," said Grant Spickelmier, zoo education curator. "They are a celebrated symbol of the Pacific Northwest — vital to our region's ecology, culture and economy."

Salmon begin life in freshwater streams and rivers — first as eggs that resemble the colorful tapioca "pearls" found in bubble tea — and remain there up to a year before heading downstream and out to sea. Most of their adult lives are spent in the ocean — sometimes as long as eight years — and eventually, they return to the streams in which they hatched to continue the cycle.

The upriver bright fall Chinook salmon eggs at the zoo were raised at the Fish and Wildlife Service's Spring Creek National Fish Hatchery in the Columbia River Gorge, where millions of salmon are produced each year. Once they hatch, they'll move to the zoo's Great Northwest area, alongside the other species in the Eagle Canyon habitat.

"We are very excited at this opportunity to partner with the zoo to share the science of salmon," said Roy Elicker, assistant regional director of the Fish and Wildlife Service's Fisheries and Aquatic Conservation program. "We look forward to teaching the next generation of conservationists how to be good stewards for our iconic Pacific Northwest salmon."

Salmon face threats that include habitat destruction, dams and pollution. All Pacific salmon rely on clean water and habitat, which can be damaged by stream-bank erosion due to logging, vegetation removal for development, and chemical pollution from urban and agricultural runoff. In addition, dams used for hydropower can block salmon migration, reduce important spawning habitat and create conditions favorable to salmon predators.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. Both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, the Service is known for its scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on the work and the people who make it happen, visit