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COLEMAN NFH: Coleman National Fish Hatchery Employees Assist in Rescue of Spring Turkey Hunter
California-Nevada Offices , March 30, 2013
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Fish Biologist Terry Freije (right) and Work Leader/ Animal Caretaker John Silva (left).
Fish Biologist Terry Freije (right) and Work Leader/ Animal Caretaker John Silva (left). - Photo Credit: Tim Cates

Early on the morning of March 30, as the sun was just starting to peak over Mount Lassen to the east of Anderson, Calif., a lone fire rescue truck from Cottonwood Fire Rescue Department, with lights on and the occasional siren, drove into the Coleman National Fish Hatchery (NFH).

Work Leader John Silva and Fish Biologist Terry Freije had been at work well before sunrise on that frosty morning, loading the fish feed boxes, when they noticed the rescue truck driving onto hatchery property. At the sight of this, the two men immediately jumped into a hatchery vehicle and drove to the fish ladder to investigate.

Freije and Silva reached the fish ladder area as the rescue squad was getting ready to cut the lock off the fish ladder access gate. Instead of cutting the lock, the two men opened the gate to the fish ladder and were informed by the rescue squad that a hunter had fallen into Battle Creek and had been swept down into the fish ladder. March 30 is the opening day for the spring turkey hunting season in California and Coleman NFH hatchery is located near public land that is popular for hunting, fishing, and other recreational activities. The first responders and the hatchery employees checked the fish ladder and found no one stranded inside.  The rescue squad said the hunter was reported as being in the water somewhere between the PG&E powerhouse and Coleman NFH.

When asked if there was a road along Battle Creek that could be used to try and locate the hunter, Silva explained that there were only trails along Battle Creek that were intermittent at best. Freije and Silva decided to go to Coleman’s Intake #3 which is located on Battle Creek about a mile and half upstream from the hatchery and start searching for the hunter. The rescue squad also headed up stream to see what access they could find. About half way to Intake #3, the rescue squad joined their incident commander and the individual that had called for help.

The rescue squad proceeded on foot with the hunters to the area where the hunting party had tried to cross Battle Creek, while Freije and Silva opened a gate up stream that would allow for vehicle access to a trail along Battle Creek. Not long after, a California Highway Patrol (CHP) helicopter hovered above the scene to assist in the search for the lost hunter, and the men rejoined the first responders and the two hunters along the north shore of Battle Creek.

One of the hunters in the search party located where the lost hunter was on the south shore of Battle Creek. The stranded hunter could be reached by vehicle, but it would take about 45 minutes to get there, as they would have to drive all the way around Battle Creek. Instead, a rescue officer from the CHP helicopter was lowered onto the south shore of Battle Creek and made contact with the hunter. The CHP rescue staff began a medical examination and the hunter was found to be cold and disoriented from his fall in the chilly water of Battle Creek, but otherwise was okay.

After the examination, the hunter was loaded onto the helicopter and transported to the north side of Battle Creek where he was reunited with the other members of his hunting party.

By the time the hunter was transported, more rescue units had arrived, including a Cal Fire unit, a fire truck from Anderson Fire Department and an ambulance.  Freije and Silva were thanked by the first responders and the hunters for their assistance. Both employees were relieved that the rescue was successful and that no one was seriously hurt. It made for a not so ordinary morning of feeding salmon but instead of helping fish, Freije and Silva were able to help people who enjoy what we all work to protect.

Coleman National Fish Hatchery is one of the largest fish hatcheries in the National Fish Hatchery System, producing 12 million fall Chinook salmon, 1 million late fall Chinook salmon and 600,000 steelhead rainbow trout annually. For more information about Coleman National Fish Hatchery call (530) 365-8622 or visit our website at http://www.fws.gov/coleman/


Contact Info: Terry Freije, 530-365-8622 Ext.223, Terry_Freije@FWS.gov



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