Facebook user Ishan Steelhead posted a photo of a giant Chinook salmon found dead, floating down the Mad River in Humboldt County. The photo shows the unbelievable size of salmon traveling through NorCal rivers and is a reminder how traveling salmon contribute to the circle of life.
It’s not clear how the fish passed, but after the photo was taken, they released it back into the water.
“It was floating upside down in complete dead drift, not responsive when it was found… but might have been comatose and just barely there,” wrote Ishan Steelhead. “We didn’t remove it from the river weigh or measure. just got a few pics and let it finish it’s down river float.”
While it may be shocking to see such a beautiful specimen dead, it’s actually a beautiful example of the circle of life. When salmon die after spawning, their bodies decompose. All those nutrients from the ocean end up on the bottom of the river, and in bird, bear and even baby salmon stomachs. These nutrients are then spread around the landscape in and out of the water.
Think about it – A bear eats a dead salmon. Eventually those nutrients pass through that bear and into the forest ten miles away. These nutrients fertilized the forest plant life. Animals eat those plants, then other animals eat those animals. Underwater the decomposing salmon become the nutrients needed for plants and aquatic insects to thrive, and they also make the rocks slippery!
So those salmon turn into the very things they ate to stay alive.
There’s nothing quite like witnessing the glorious salmon run throughout Northern California and that dead salmon found on the Mad River is a beautiful example. It’s the circle of life, my friends.