Mysteriously Dead Dungeness Crabs in the Russian River Estuary

Tuesday July 15, 2014 Jenner CA.

Pestering the biologists

I put my boat in the water today around 11 AM. The biologists that are tracking the fish were out in their boat just in front of the boat ramp, so I went over to talk with them. I try not to be a pest, but these guys are very busy a lot of the times I approach and I never know what they are doing. They were very busy taking measurements to talk much, but I got a couple of comments and questions in. As it turned out, they were headed up stream and I was headed down towards the river’s mouth as I saw Ray’s yellow kayak down that way, so most of my questions were going to have to wait until another time.

The dead Dungeness crabs

I paddled down the side of Penny island towards the west end, where Ray was waiting. Right away, he says, see the dead crabs? No, I says, I don’t, but now I do.

Ray had collected a couple of them while he was waiting They are little Dungeness crabs, about four inches across the shell. Ray holds one up as I take a picture of them.deadcrabs


There are more dead ones in the water, just looking around the area quickly. Not hundreds, but quite a few in the small area I could see around us.crab2


There seems to be a crab die off of some type going on. We headed on down towards the river’s mouth area. There were some white pelicans, terns and seagulls resting on the west end of Penny Island as we passed.birds


More dead crabs

As we crossed over to the houses near the river’s end at the mouth we saw some more dead crabs in the water. Here is one of them.crab


I’ve seen two inch, across the shell, Dungeness crabs die when the mouth is closed and opened and the salt water changes to fresh. At least that’s what I think makes them die, the fresh water, I mean. But right now the estuary has been sorta on the content side., with the tides going in and out. It could be that the crabs came in on the high tides and got caught in the fresh water when the ocean tide went back out? I don’t really know.

Life and death in the estuary, something will eat it soon and it will not go to waste. Nothing does in the river.

River’s mouth area

We continued over to the river mouth area as the high tide was coming in. There were a bunch of harbor seals resting  on the sand that the high tides have washed into the river, through the mouth.rivermouth


Ray and I were sitting there enjoying the view when another kayak came up to us and it was John, Ray’s brother.

We paddled down to the end of the river and sat for quite awhile watching the high tide come in. John was hot, so he did what one should do when that happens on a river. Ray and I weren’t so inclined, but I think he had the right idea.john


Lots of harbor seals laying around on the beach today taking it easy.seals


Paddled back up the river

After a couple hours down there we slowly headed on back towards Penny Island were more white pelicans had landed since we were last here earlier.birdsisland


Seagulls, terns and white pelicans resting on Penny Island.jenner


A close up of these white pelicans. They are fun to watch.pelicans


We went up the back channel of Penny Island. As we cleared the end of it, John said good bye and went on home and Ray and I continued on up to eagle’s landing were we sat for a bit.

When we left that area, I wanted to check out the bird life on the north side of the river, so we crossed over and went down this side at a slow pace towards the town of Jenner.jenner1


We went on home where I had a nap and then went outside to put the water on some fruit trees, which I watered until almost dark, doing my chair hopping thing, enjoying the evening.

Another nice day on the river.
















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