Species extinction and its effects on Klamath County

Prepared by Zach Harris and Pernell Booth


(From Left to Right): Pernell Booth, Zach Harris, John Reese, Jason Vandiver, Pat Fuller, Sammy Stroughter

OSU Beaver Football Homepage


Zach, Pernell and Mike in Chiloquin, OR; a small town where the Klamath Tribal Admin. Is located

Klamath Tribal Administration


Course & Website Overview


The 2007 Spring Break was spent in beautiful Klamath County Oregon.  Oregon State University’s Sociology and Ethnic Studies departments sponsor a class based on Native American issues in a rural Oregon community, such as Klamath County.  The five-day class, from March 25th through the 30th, spent most of the time interviewing stakeholders from the community.  These interviews gave class participants insight into the problems affecting those living in Klamath.  The most common issue and recurrent theme that these stakeholders discussed was that of water rights. 

The Klamath tribes and the non-native agricultural community have been in turmoil ever since the 2001 when water use was significantly reduced for conservation of Salmon and the ceremonial Sucker Fish.  The severely restricted use of logging land was also another theme that was commonly discussed.  The over-use of timber areas and the Endangered Northern Spotted owl were main reasons to these restrictions.  The following will give insight into the endangered species in the area, and their impact on the community.  The three key species discussed during the class were the Northern Spotted Owl, Coho Salmon, and the Sucker fish Native to the Klamath Basin.



The Northern Spotted Owl, (Strix occidentalis caurina)


The spotted owl habitat has been devastated due to the over-use of the timber areas in Klamath County as well as the lack of replanting after cutting.  This can be seen in the picture.


This advertisement was a recurrent theme when numerous individuals were losing their livelihood because of the Endangered Species act and the fact that there would be a reduced timber industry because of this.


Northern Spotted Owl Facts






Northern spotted owls are dark-to-chestnut brown with round or oval white spots on their head, neck, back and underparts. Their flight feathers also are dark brown in color and barred with light brown or white. Unlike most owls, spotted owls have dark eyes.


Although this species is often referred to as a medium-sized owl, it ranks among the largest in North America. The average adult size is about 18 inches tall with a wing span of approximately 48 inches. They weigh between 17-29 ounces. The female is larger than the male.


As a result of declining habitat, there are fewer than 100 pairs of Northern spotted owls in British Columbia, Canada, 1,200 pairs in Oregon, 560 pairs in northern California and 500 pairs in the state of Washington.


They may live as long as 10 years in the wild and up to 15-20 years in captivity.


Northern spotted owls are typically found in old growth forests of northern California and the Pacific Northwest of the United States and in southern parts of British Columbia, Canada.


Suitable spotted owl habitat includes old-growth forest areas with multi-layered canopies of trees that are high and open enough for the owls to fly between and underneath them. Preferred areas have large trees with broken tops, deformed limbs and large cavities, capable of supporting the owls nesting materials..


Northern spotted owls enjoy a variety of prey, including flying squirrels, woodrats, mice and other small rodents. They also eat birds, insects and reptiles.



These owls are very territorial and intolerant of habitat disturbance. Even though they do not migrate, they may shift their ranges in response to seasonal changes. Each pair needs a large amount of land for hunting and nesting. They have a distinct flight pattern, involving a series of rapid wingbeats interspersed with gliding flight.



Pairs of males and females form in February or March and two or three white eggs are laid in March or April. The female incubates the eggs for 30 days. After hatching, it takes the young birds 34-36 days to fledge or acquire the feathers necessary for flying. After the eggs hatch, the female sits with the offspring for 8-10 days. During this time, the male brings the female food.


The biggest threat to the Northern spotted owl is loss of old growth forest habitat, as a result of logging and forest fragmentation. These threats are made even greater by natural disasters, such as fire, volcanic eruptions and wind storms.


Endangered Species Act, *CITES, Appendix II

*Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, an international treaty with more than 144 member countries. Appendix I listed species cannot be traded commercially. Appendix II listed species can be traded commercially only if trade does not harm their survival.

Endnagered Species act of 1973


Coho Salmon Near Extinction


Coho Salmon from the Klamath River                                      The “Bucket,” a symbol in Klamath Falls, Oregon


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The Klamath River was once the third most productive salmon river system in the United States. Today, thanks to habitat blocking dams, poor water quality and too little water left in the river, the once abundant Klamath salmon runs have now been reduced to less than 10% of their historic size. Some species, such as Coho salmon, are now in such low numbers in the Klamath River that they are listed under the Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Salmon losses in the Klamath Basin have had devastating impacts on the lower river fishing-dependent economy, putting thousands of people out of work and eliminating tens of millions of dollars annually from the economy of these rural areas and coastal ports, from Fort Bragg, California to Florence, Oregon. The need to protect depressed Klamath salmon runs has also triggered fishing closures on otherwise abundant stocks (mostly hatchery fish from the California Central Valley) all up and down the west coast, causing many indirect economic costs as well.

One of the biggest problems for water quality in the Klamath River is the operation of the Klamath Irrigation Project, a huge federal water project which diverts most of the water from the Upper Klamath Basin (in Oregon) for irrigation long before it can reach salmon spawning areas downriver in California. The remaining water left in the river, whatever the Project is willing to release from Iron Gate Dam, is so little in volume, so hot and so laced with pesticides and nitrates from agricultural waste water that it is often fatal for salmon as much as 100 miles downriver. Hundreds of thousands of salmon have been killed in recent years as a result, and Klamath River Coho salmon driven nearly to extinction.

Salmon Fish Facts 2006-Klamath, OR

The Ceremonial Lost River Sucker Fish



                                         Lost River Sucker Fish                                                            Klamath County, OR


Distribution of Lost River sucker
in Oregon

Klamath county

The Lost River sucker was federally listed as endangered in 1988. A recovery plan was published in 1993.

Historical Status and Current Trends

Early records indicate that Lost River suckers were once widespread and abundant in the upper Klamath Basin of Oregon and California. This area historically contained over 350,000 acres of wetlands and floodplains. These wetlands protected sucker habitat by controlling erosion, recycling organic and inorganic nutrients, and maintaining water quality. Because suckers were historically very abundant, they were a major food source for Native Americans and local settlers in the late 1800's. Canneries were established along the Lost River to process suckers into oil, dried fish, and other products. However, agricultural development and associated water and land use changes in the basin have contributed to the significant loss of wetland habitat and a significant decline in sucker populations. Although overharvesting and pollution may have played a role in the species decline, it is believed that the combined effects of the construction of dams, the draining or dredging of lakes, and other alterations of natural stream flow have reduced the reproductive success of Lost River suckers by as much as 95% through the degradation of suitable breeding habitat. At the time the Lost River sucker was listed as endangered, it was noted that there had been no significant addition of young into the population in 18 years.

Currently, the Lost River sucker occupies only a fraction of its former range and is restricted to a few areas in the Upper Klamath Basin, such as the drainages of Upper Klamath Lake, Tule Lake, and Clear Lake. Poor water quality, reduced suitable habitat for all sizes and ages, and the impacts of non-native fishes continue to threaten remaining Lost River sucker populations.

Description and Life History

Locally known as mullet, the Lost River sucker is a large, long-lived sucker that can reach 43 years of age. It has unique triangular-shaped gill structures which are used to strain a diet of detritus (decomposing organic matter), zooplankton (tiny floating aquatic animals), algae, and aquatic insects from the water. Lost River suckers typically begin to reproduce at nine years, when they first participate in spawning migration. Adult suckers migrate from the quiet waters of lakes into fast moving streams from March through May in order to spawn. They may also spawn in lakeshore springs from February to mid-April when the water temperature is a constant 15 C (60 F). Thousands of eggs (from 44,000 for smaller fish to 218,000 for larger suckers) are typically laid near the stream bottom in areas where gravel or cobble is available. Once the eggs hatch, the larval fish begin their migration back to calmer waters. They generally migrate at night and stay in shallow, shoreline areas and in aquatic vegetation during the day. Upon their return to the lake, larvae may be preyed upon by largemouth bass, yellow perch, or other non-native predatory fish, and larger juveniles may compete for food with non-native fishes such as fathead minnows, yellow perch, and others.


The Lost River sucker dwells in the deeper water of lakes and spawns in springs or tributary streams upstream of the home lake. Areas with gravel or close-set stone ("cobble") bottoms at springs or in moderate to fast-flowing springs are preferred for spawning. In addition, the spawning streams have a fairly shallow shoreline with abundant aquatic vegetation; these areas provide a safe haven for the young larvae during their journey back downstream to their home lakes or the deep, quiet waters of rivers.

Reasons for Decline

Although a number of factors have contributed to the decline of the Lost River sucker, habitat degradation is considered the primary cause. Streams, rivers, and lakes have been modified by channelization and dams. Grazing in the riparian zone has eliminated streambank vegetation, and has added nutrients and sediment to river systems. Eggs and larvae, for example, suffocate when the water is cloudy, or dry out or get eaten by other fish when they are not protected by aquatic vegetation. Loss of streambank vegetation due to overgrazing, logging activities, agricultural practices, and road construction has also led to increases in stream temperatures, high levels of nutrients (which encourages the buildup of excess algae and bacteria), and serious erosion and sedimentation problems in streams. Such water quality problems have reduced the availability of suitable Lost River sucker habitat and have resulted in major fish mortality. Entire age classes of young suckers are routinely lost due to poor water quality conditions. As a result, few young suckers survive to sexual maturity, and therefore, do not increase the population size. Other factors affecting the decline of the Lost River sucker include previous overharvesting, chemical pollution from pesticides, herbicides, and forestry practices, and predation and competition from native and non-native fishes such as largemouth bass, blue chub, yellow perch, fathead minnows, and rainbow trout.

Conservation Measures

Conservation efforts for the Lost River sucker focus on the re-establishment of a more naturally functioning ecosystem in the Klamath Basin. Fencing portions of streams to reduce cattle-caused erosion, replanting streambanks with native vegetation, improving forestry and agricultural practices, and assuring adequate water levels in reservoirs will contribute to the recovery of this species. Through coordination of the actions of land use agencies and private landowners, further degradation of sucker habitat can be avoided and steps can be taken to improve current conditions. By minimizing the impacts of future modifications to spawning habitat and restoring waters to a more natural state, recovery of Lost River sucker populations is possible in the Klamath Basin.

References and Links


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Lost River Sucker Recovery Plan


Myself and Pernell have both experienced a good amount of intellectual growth during this small amount of time.  We learned a lot about Native American culture, Klamath County, and all the issues that those living there are dealing with.  It is easier to see why one of the themes of this class, active listening, is so important.  Through this process we learned more than we would if we were only thinking we were listening.  The social aspect of public relations was better understood because you had to try and get along with 20 strangers because you were all working towards one common goal.  Also better communication skills were gained.  Running out onto the field in front of 50,000 fans is one thing (you don’t have to give a speech to anyone), however actually speaking to an important group of stakeholders is another, and we learned how to do that more effectively.  We have gained 20 new friends and acquaintances and built relationships with the instructors.  Thank you all for a great and memorable experience.


Pernell at the OSU Extension offfice in Klamath Falls

Klamath County OSU Extension office


Zach at the Klamath County Museum

Klamath County Museums

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Page Last Updated April 16, 2007