We see the four eagles before spotting a salmon. One of the eagles is tearing flesh from the flopping fish. The other three have spread themselves out on the gravel bar. Each of these is hoping to snag the next salmon that moves out of the current to rest in the lee of the gravel bar.
Down river, another quartet of bald eagles bickered over a different salmon. Eight eagles and one only two salmon might indicate a problem. There should be hundreds, if not thousands of dog salmon moving up the river now to their spawning grounds. I pray that the fish are just late.
If they have any spiritual beliefs, the Eagle River black bears might be appealing to their deities. They need lots of fish to get through the winter. None of the eight piles of fresh scat that we skirted on the river trail contained remains of fish. They were spotted with unripe high-bush cranberries.
Aki, the health of everything along the river depends on good salmon returns, even the trees. The salmon could fit in my hand when they first left the river. They need to spend at least a year wandering and feeding in the ocean before coming home to spawn. Some might be five or ten kilos when they arrive. Something or a combination of things—warming sea temperatures, pollution, new ocean predators able to take advantage to climate change—might be threatening the fish upon which so much of rain forest life depends.