ROSEBURG, Ore. -- Nearly 700 Coho salmon found a new home at Eastwood Elementary School Tuesday -- a month after the Rock Creek Hatchery burned down in the Archie Creek Fire.
Officials with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said they lost thousands of fish in the fire. Many of the surviving fish were transferred to other hatcheries in the state. However, the juvenile Coho made their way to Eastwood instead.
“Normally we would have 60,000,” said ODFW biologist Evan Leonetti. “700 is not very many out of 60,000, but we’re really happy to have them.”
Eastwood Elementary also acts as a fish acclimation site during the school year. That’s a place where fish are put to grow, mature and adjust to saltwater before they are released into the ocean.
The site is also used to give students hands-on learning about the fish cycle.
However, fifth grade teacher Camron Pope said they were not planning to raise fish this year because the school is still in distance learning.
“Every tool a teacher has had in their tool belt has been exchanged for something new,” said Pope. “We’re all trying to figure out how to keep kids engaged.”
However, once he found out about the damage done at Rock Creek, Pope said he reached out to Leonetti and offered their facility to the Coho.
Pope said he plans to use the fish as a tool while distance learning. He said he wants to occasionally teach class outside so students can learn about the fish as they raise them.
“This project allows us to continue to teach,” he said. “We can teach them about the fish, we can teach them about the life cycles.”
The fish will stay at Eastwood until April. Then they will be released into the Galesville Dam to continue their life cycle.