Sensitive Species

Sockeye Salmon

Sockeye salmon have become an Idaho legend. These fish with elongated, beak-looking snouts are born in five freshwater Sawtooth Valley lakes: Alturas, Pettit, Redfish, Stanley and Yellowbelly. 

Habitat: Once hatched, juvenile sockeyes will stay in the lakes for up to three years. In May, they travel more than 900 miles down the Columbia and Snake rivers and drop more than 6,500 feet in elevation out to the ocean, where they continue to grow, feeding on zooplankton (a tiny marine animal). There, they live and grow for one to four years. By this time, their average weight is between two to six pounds and their average length is between 16-26 inches. While they are living in the ocean, they have silver flanks with black speckles and a bluish top.   

For reasons no one knows, in June and July, the salmon make the 900 mile arduous journey back to the freshwater lake they were born in. As they return to their spawning grounds, their bodies turn bright red and their heads become a greenish color. Breeding-age males develop a humped back and hooked jaws filled with teeth. Shortly after they reach Idaho in October, they spawn and die; leaving the lakes to their young who hatch the following spring. 

Facts: Sockeye numbers have dwindled rapidly since about 1950 for a number of possible reasons. Dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers make migrationto the ocean difficult. A changing climate may also be affecting their numbers. Whatever the reason, land management agencies are working to improve salmon numbers.     

Land management agencies are currently studying the fish and are raising sockeye salmon in hatcheries, then releasing them into the wild, to prevent extinction. 

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Wildlife Species 


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Herbivore Mammals

Pygmy rabbit
Desert cottontail
Eastern gray squirrel
Red squirrel
Deer mouse
Kangaroo rat
Meadow vole
Mule deer
Bighorn sheep
American pronghorn

Carnivore Mammals

American badger
River otter
Red fox
Long-tailed weasel
Grizzly bear
Mountain lion



Long-toed salamander
Idaho giant salamander
Coeur d'Alene salamander

Frogs and Toads

American bullfrog
Columbia spotted frog
Western toad
Northern leopard frog
Pacific tree frog
Great Basin spadefoot



Painted turtle
Northern alligator lizard
Mohave black-collared lizard
Short-horned lizard
Desert horned lizard
Sagebrush lizard
Western fence lizard
Western skink
Side-blotched lizard
Longnosed leopard lizard
Western whiptail


Western pipistrelle
Western small-footed myotis
Little brown bat
Yuma myotis
Townsend's big-eared bat
Hoary bat
Silver-haired bat
Fringed myotis
Pallid bat

Sensitive Species (not a complete list)

Greater sage-grouse
Pygmy rabbit
No. Idaho ground squirrel
So. Idaho ground squirrel
Canada lynx
Grizzly bear
Selkirk Mtns. woodland caribou
Kootenai White River sturgeon
Bull trout
Sockeye salmon
Chinook salmon
Steelhead trout
Yellow-billed cuckoo