Wildlife group ponies up to test illegal shiners from Diamond Lake

A Portland-based outdoor nonprofit will foot the $4,000 bill for sensitive tests on illegally stocked golden shiners found in Diamond Lake and elsewhere, a key next move for police investigating this environmental crime.

The Oregon Wildlife Heritage Foundation on Oct. 23 met in Portland and authorized the money for the tests as part of the Oregon State Police investigation into the shiners, discovered in late July at the eastern Douglas County lake.

The tests will be done on the shiners' otolith bones — tiny inner ear bones that help a fish's sense of balance while swimming. The bones contain tiny daily growth rings that can be seen with high-powered microscopes and studied to determine myriad facets of the fishes' lives.

The tests can match water bodies of origin, age and even reveal the exact day the shiners were released in the lake, which was poisoned in 2006 to kill millions of tui chub and a small number of shiners.

Police plan to test 10 shiners removed from Diamond Lake, as well as 10 each from Emigrant Lake, Howard Prairie and a sample from Northern California baits shops where the shiners are sold legally as "minnows."

Investigators have said they hope the tests will provide a scenario for how the shiners found their way into the lake, but it likely will not give OSP investigators a suspect, police said.

The OWHF was a key player in raising the $5.6 million needed for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to apply rotenone in 2006. The group sees the $4,000 as money to help protect that investment.

"We've spent a lot of money trying to clean up that lake, and we intend to keep that lake as clean of trash fish as possible," says Rod Brobeck, the foundation's executive director. "If we can figure out how those shiners got there, we can maybe prevent this from happening again."

The tests, which can be done at Oregon State University or other fish labs, cost about $100 apiece.

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