Critter Profile: Caddy!

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Critter Profile: Caddy!



Name: Caddy

Species: Clupea pallasii (Pacific Herring)

Primary Caretaker: Aquatics Team, Laura Irvin

Diet: Plankton, other small fish and oceanic organisms (Laura says her favorite snack is Kibbly-Bites fish food!)

Housed: N/A, as Caddy lives in the wild

Creature Features!

'Caddy' is our name for a massive school of Pacific Herring functioning as one big ol' colonial organism. She lives just off the coast of Oregon, but we've followed her as far inland as the Willamette River here in Clackamas County. What's really special about Caddy is her schooling habits.

As I'm sure you all know, the Pacific Ocean is home to all sorts of critters that would love to snack on a sardine — and we don't blame 'em, sardines are pretty tasty after all. So what does Caddy do to stay off the menu? When she feels threatened, she clusters all her fish together to form a giant sea monster! We're not entirely sure how, but members of Caddy's school all secrete some kind of sticky substance that keeps them all packed together into one colonial organism. Any stray herring that Caddy comes across will usually join up with her, and they develop similar properties.

While she's in this state, Caddy can be anywhere from thirty to fifty feet long (that's 9 to 15 meters in metric), and propels herself with side-to-side motions, sort of like a giant snake. She can go pretty fast, too! We've clocked her at about 30 knots when she really wants to move. With that in mind, it's no surprise that her tail packs a real wallop! I've seen her knock a tuna clear out of the water for getting a little nibble-y around her.

The only one she really lets get too close to her is Laura. And let me tell you, those two are thick as thieves. Caddy always comes swimming over as soon as she sees Laura. I've even seen Caddy group up to let Laura ride on her back.



A drawing of the Cadborosaurus. They had a pretty vivid imagination back then, huh?

From what we can tell, Caddy's been around for quite a while. Ask anyone over by the coast and they'll spin you a yarn about the 'Caborosaurus willisi', which is supposedly the west coast's very own sea serpent. Most of these sightings can be explained away by other local wildlife, like sea lions, oarfish, whales, but some of them remain unsolved to this day. Well, we here didn't pay too much mind to the tall tales at first, but after Peggy and her family went out fishing one day and caught a glimpse of Caddy hightailing it away from a school of Tuna, we decided to check it out.

And let me tell you, we got more than we bargained for! About three of our boats went out (which is about all we have, really) with a big net. They tried to catch her, but every time we had her cornered, she seemed to disperse and reappear just out of their reach. They played this cat-and-mouse game for a while, but they didn't get anywhere with her.

That’s where Laura, head of our aquatics team stepped in! She told everyone to head back. Then she took her boat, a bucket of baitfish, and she headed out onto the open ocean all by her lonesome.

Caddy was in a panic at the time, could barely keep herself together, and she was almost ready to tip Laura out of her boat. But Laura made it clear that she wasn't out to get her. It took a while for Caddy to calm down, but let me tell you, Laura's got the patience of a spider.

Laura took out a long stick and some fishing wire, and tied a big shiny piece of metal to the end of it. She waved that around a little to get Caddy's attention. Caddy was a little skittish after the chase, but she's still a curious critter. Before you know it, she was chasing after it like a cat after a toy, trying to nibble at it, churning up the water like crazy. After Caddy had gotten nice and tuckered out, Laura thought she'd toss in a chunk of the bait fish she'd brought. Imagine her surprise when Caddy finally got settled, and turned out to be a school of minnows!

Anywho, Laura found out everything she could about Caddy before coming back in. Much to her surprise, Caddy followed her almost the whole way back. That’s how our relationship with this gorgeous girl got started!

Special Needs and Accommodations!

Caddy's a pretty big girl, so she's more than capable of taking care of herself most of the time. Even if one or two of her school get snapped up, she's constantly growing and replenishing them. However, we'd like to make sure that she stays pretty far from any populated areas, as well as common ship routes. To help with this, Laura has Caddy pretty well trained to follow her boat in exchange for food. So if she starts to get a little curious about the docks, we can always just lure her back out to sea.

Since she's been known to go down the river, we've thought about trying to relocate her to a lake or river here in Clackamas, but we don't really have any that would be large enough for her whole school. Besides, messing with an animal's natural habitat just ain't our style. However, should push come to shove, the Supervisors have offered to help us engineer a special batch of fish food, that would calm Caddy's school down enough for us to scoop as many of them up as possible.

Notes about Caddy!

Mark has suggested that we look into how exactly Caddy produces that sticky stuff that keeps her school together, as it could help us solve a problem that not even duct tape can; keeping sticky stuff sticky when it's underwater! This could help with other aquatic animals that require care.

EDIT 4/12/2018: Suggestion passed. Laura managed to isolate ten of Caddy's herring, and sent them back to us in Boring. We're still working on how to produce more of our own, but we have been able to harvest some of the adhesive, which Caddy's herring are constantly producing and shedding.

We tried it out first on a Serenity Turtle that had a cracked shell. It was a really delicate procedure, but it worked! The Serenity Turtle in question (we've decided to call him Champ!) is still in a delicate condition, but we've managed to graft a protective seal over the crack on his shell, which even stays on in his water tank!

We're finding all sorts of applications for this stuff! We've been able to use it on everything from fixing up Ted's barn roof to keeping muskrats out of the reservoir.

It's easy and non-harmful to harvest, and sticks stuff like crazy! We're happy as clams about this development, and looking forward to continuing our relationship with Caddy!

Right now, Laura's trying to see if she can get enough of Caddy's herring for us to set up a breeding population of our own back in Boring. Caddy as a whole doesn't mind, so long as Laura still comes to visit pretty often (and brings an offering of Kibbly-Bites!). Keep up the good work, you two!

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