Nutrients in Salmonid Ecosystems: Sustaining Production and Biodiversity

Observations of Chum Salmon Consumption by Wildlife and Changes in Water Chemistry at Kennedy Creek during 1997-2000

Joseph Jauquet, Ned Pittman, Jeffrey A. Heinis, Steven Thompson, Nui Tatyama, and Jeff Cederholm


Abstract.—During 1997–2000, chum salmon Oncorhynchus keta spawners and their predators and scavengers were observed in lower Kennedy Creek, a small south Puget Sound, Washington stream. Chum salmon occupy 5.2 km of main Kennedy Creek and a small tributary called Fiscus Creek. Spawning escapements within this stream averaged 39,000 fish annually during this study. Active spawning began in late October and was over by mid- December. Direct consumption of live and dead salmon was observed or inferred from animal signs over the spawning period. Salmon carcasses and tissue fragments could be found scattered along the streambed from October through March, and bones remained year round. Live spawners, carcass flesh, and eggs were consumed by 30 species of birds, mammals, invertebrates, and fungi, including 9 previously undocumented species. High carcass densities allowed selective feeding for some consumers and opportunistic feeding for others. Apparent preferences for eggs by several consumers suggested another important role for naturally spawning salmon. Varied thrush Ixoreus naevius, otter Lutra canadensis, and song sparrow Melospiza melodia showed preferences for salmon eggs, and a cougar Felis concolor killed live salmon and fed on them. Some consumers coordinate successive utilization of carcasses, such as the gull Larus spp., terrestrial beetle Agyrtidae, raccoon Procyon lotor, fly maggots, and mice. Water samples taken from the anadromous areas of these creeks and from the estuary in Totten Inlet showed elevated levels of dissolved ammonium, nitrate, and nitrite. Benefits to chum fry were inferred.