Historic Klamath River Dam Removal Unleashes Challenges for Wildlife


The largest dam removal in history aims to restore salmon habitats that have been locked out for over a century, yet the historic removal has not left all animals unscathed by the receding waters. Observers have witnessed large fish kills and other wildlife caught in the thick mud. CDFW addressed the incidents as a result of the drawdown of the Klamath River.

The department participated in a meeting with various stakeholders to address the concerns, recognizing that 10 deer died, unable to escape the muddy footprint of Copco Lake during the drawdown.

CDFW says they have implemented measures to protect wildlife with daily patrols, on-call staff for wildlife rescue, monitoring for distress signals, and installing deterrents like reflective strips.

Since these efforts were initiated, there have been no further incidents involving deer.

Responding to the fish kill, CDFW officials state, “most of the dead fish [were] non-native species such as largemouth and smallmouth bass, catfish, bluegill and yellow perch that thrive in warm water reservoir environments but weren’t expected to survive the transition back to a natural, cold-water river system. They added this was anticipated and addressed in the planning documents, with the expectation that it would benefit native fish like trout, salmon, and steelhead.

The dam removal project aims to open up additional spawning and rearing habitats for salmon and steelhead, along with restoring wildlife habitat within the reseeded reservoir footprints.

While some say there may continue to be “growing pains” during the dam removals, the hope is that future generations will see a renewed and flourishing environment around the Klamath River.


Photo: CDFW