For this week’s Canyon Column, we’re taking another look down memory lane through the eyes of the Canyon’s critters! Read on to learn more about five animals that live in the Canyon.
American Beaver (Castor canadensis)
Reed Lake is the oldest naturally occurring lake in Portland, and that’s thanks to Oregon’s state animal, the American beaver! In the late 1800s, beavers formed a dam that blocked the flow of Crystal Springs Creek, forming the lake that was later purchased by the college’s founders, Simeon and Amanda Reed, and named Reed Lake. Shortly after the lake was formed, American colonizers began to over-trap beavers to strip them of their prized pelts. But in the 1900s, the beaver population began to bounce back, and now there are an estimated 15 million beavers in North America.
Coho Salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch)
One of the pride and joys of Reed Canyon is its salmon population. Coho salmon spawn in the creek downstream of Reed Lake near Greenwood. After spawning, the adult salmon usually die within a couple days, as they guard their nest of eggs. Once the juvenile salmon emerge from the rocky creek bottom, they use the Fish Ladder by the Physical Plant to travel up to Reed Lake for rearing. While Reed’s salmon population is not particularly large, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries website coho are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The State of Oregon recognized coho salmon as a threatened species in 1999, and according to Perry, that helped propel Reed Canyon’s restoration strategy as Reed began to focus on protecting headwaters and preserving clean water habitats for this species.
River Otter (Lutra canadensis)
Although it’s important to protect coho salmon species from extinction, a little natural predation is good for balancing the Canyon’s ecosystem. In this photo, we can see an otter feasting on a steelhead trout while perched on a fallen tree in the lake. According to the Progressive Animal Welfare Society, “River otters are opportunistic carnivores and will eat a variety of prey species found in their environment.” Besides salmon and other fish, otters also eat crayfish, amphibians, small mammals, birds, and even aquatic beetles.
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)
These beautiful birds can be seen near the edges of the water and are often found on the little island in the middle of the lake. With crowns atop their heads, their bright yellow bills, and their impressive height, these herons are the kings of the Canyon’s bird species. Although the heron in the photo can be seen snuggling up in his plumage, great blue herons grow to be approximately four feet tall and are the largest heron in North America.
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
Another key Canyon bird species is the mallard. This mother mallard flashes a smile for the camera as she leads her ducklings around the lake. Although mallards are the most commonly harvested duck in Oregon, according to the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, the Reed Canyon is a protected nature reserve that prohibits hunting. Thus, the Canyon provides a safe refuge for mallards and the rest of the Canyon’s beloved waterfowl such as wigeon, woodducks, coot, mergansers, and hooded mergansers!
Lovely article and very informative! Thanks Clarissa!