British Columbia

Salmon counting at Colquitz River cut short thanks to thieving otters

The sneaky snackers have been feeding from a trap used to collect migrating fish in Victoria, B.C., so they can be counted for conservation purposes.

The sneaky snackers have been feeding from a trap used to collect and count migrating fish

An otter attempts to prey on salmon at the trap set up at the Colquitz River in Victoria, B.C., where volunteers were trying to catch and count fish for conservation purposes. (Gorge Tillicum Community Association/Facebook)

Some sneaky snackers have shut down a salmon counting project in the provincial capital. Again.

Every fall, fish fence panels are installed on the Colquitz River in Victoria, B.C., that direct coho salmon making their way to Portage Inlet into a holding pen. This allows volunteers with the group Salmon in the City to count the captured coho and provide numbers and health information to Fisheries and Oceans Canada..

This year, as happened in 2020, the group has decided to stop trapping the salmon because, as it turns out, they are creating the perfect feasting conditions for families of otters who frequent the area.

"The big ones are circling the traps like sharks," said Dorothy Chambers, speaking for Salmon in the City on CBC's On The Island Monday.

Volunteers prepare to count fish at the Colquitz River trap at the end of September, a few weeks before deciding to pull the plug on the project this year due to aggressive otters. (Gorge Tillicum Community Association/Facebook)

Chambers said while adult otters can't get into the trap, juvenile ones are able to "collapse their bones" and slither into the openings intended for fish to fall through.

She said the decision to pull the trap is a "huge disappointment" but will give the fish who are passing through a better chance of surviving, adding that one female salmon who evades an otter can go on to lay up to 3,000 eggs.

Chambers said between Fisheries and Oceans Canada and conservation grants, over $6,000 was spent to improve the trap system this year, but it still proved to be not much of an obstacle for the local bandits.

According to Chambers, the federal government is now installing a camera to keep an eye on fish traffic in the river instead.

Under normal circumstances, fish counting at Colquitz River would continue until December.

With files from On The Island