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Nez Perce Tribe trying to reestablish eel-like fishes in Idaho river

The tribe has translocated 50 adult Pacific lamprey into the East Fork of the Potlatch River.
Credit: IDFG
An adult Pacific lamprey being released into the East Fork Potlatch River.

BOISE, Idaho — Biologists say some people might think when the first see a Pacific lamprey that it’s a snake, or possibly an eel. But they would be wrong.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game says the lamprey are eel-like primitive fishes that lack the jaws and paired fins of true fishes. Like salmon, they are born in freshwater and spend time in the ocean growing to adults.

However, lamprey can spend up to seven years in freshwater before making their way to the ocean. Once there, they usually spend two to three years before returning to a freshwater stream to lay their eggs.

Their numbers have been in decline in recent years, but an effort is underway in Idaho to help bring the lamprey back.

Credit: IDFG
Lamprey are eel-like primitive fishes that lack the jaws and paired fins of true fishes.

Last fall, the Nez Perce Tribe translocated 50 adult Pacific lamprey into the East Fork Potlatch River. The goal is to reestablish them there.

Idaho Fish and Game has monitoring equipment in the Potlatch River and will help keep on an eye on them to see if young lamprey are produced. This release is part of a larger project that the Nez Perce Tribe is doing to translocate lamprey into Idaho.

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