Obama Administration Denies Big Lost River Whitefish Endangered Species Protection

Rules that isolated population is not a distinct population

The mountain whitefish of the Big Lost River Basin was denied endangered species protection by Ken Salazar’s US Fish and Wildlife Service. They argued that the fish could not be considered a separate species, sub-species, or distinct population segment even though they have been isolated from other whitefish for more than 10,000 years and their habitat is being destroyed by water diversions and livestock grazing.

Big Lost Basin Whitefish - Idaho Department of Fish Game

Big Lost Basin Whitefish - Idaho Department of Fish Game

Because of this isolation they have become genetically divergent form other populations and should be considered a distinct population segment. In fact, one report, which examined the genetic traits of these fish found them to be the most genetically distinct population.  The problem is that the USFWS based nearly their entire reasoning on genetics when little is really known about how important even slight variations may be in fish populations which are easily reproductively isolated and have very different ecological pressures as opposed to widespread land animals.  The USFWS didn’t consider distinct life history, habitat, or behavioral qualities. The idea that they are not a DPS doesn’t even pass the sniff test.

While whitefish are plentiful in many other places, this isolated population has been severely affected by irrigation dams which prevent movement up and down stream, dewater entire sections of river, and are not screened so fish are diverted into fields.

Cattle grazing has also eliminated them from some of the smaller streams such as Antelope Creek and the entire Copper Basin.

Mountain Whitefish in Big Lost River will not be protected
Idaho State Journal

Feds: No protection for whitefish
By SIMMI AUJLA – Associated Press

More on the Montana bighorn disease outbreaks

Same pathogen found in bighorn and domestic sheep after contact was observed

Bighorn Sheep © Ken Cole

Bighorn Sheep © Ken Cole

Here are two stories outlining what happened this winter with the outbreaks of disease in bighorn sheep.  It appears that there are likely two different causes for the outbreaks.  In the East Fork Bitterroot it appears that bighorn contracted mycoplasma from a small herd of domestic sheep near Darby where the owner reported contact.  The sheep were later tested for disease and the samples matched what was found in the bighorn sheep.  To the north and east in the upper and lower Rock Creek herds and the Bonner herd it appears that something else is going on but, even though there are many domestic sheep in close proximity to these bighorn herds, no documented contact has been observed.  That doesn’t say much though and doesn’t eliminate the likelihood that contact occurred.  We’ve had reports on this blog of seeing domestic sheep in an area one day and bighorn sheep in the same area the next in this region.

It should be noted that the owner of the domestic sheep in the Sula, Mt. area has moved the sheep and is hoping that a new home can be found for them in an area that doesn’t have bighorn sheep.

Fortunately the outbreaks haven’t been as devastating as others on the basis of percentage.  Still, the overall numbers of bighorn sheep lost is staggering and the effects of the outbreaks will likely impact lamb survival for years to come.

Pneumonia outbreak cut bighorn herds in half
By ROB CHANEY of the Missoulian

Biologist: Bitterroot herd survived pneumonia outbreak
By PERRY BACKUS Ravalli Republic Read the rest of this entry »

American Pika Are Thriving in the Sierra Nevada and Southwestern Great Basin

Questions remain unanswered

Pika © Ken Cole

With very few systematic surveys of pikas there is not much to compare the results of this most recent survey to.  The questions that still needs to be answered are what impact is climate change having on the survival of pikas in, especially, the isolated ranges of the pika’s range?  Are the pikas being squeezed out of lower elevation sites to cooler, higher elevation sites?

A trend cannot be determined from just one sample and this information should be considered a baseline.

In places where pikas are systematically surveyed they are disappearing like in the Bodie Hills of California.

American Pika Are Thriving in the Sierra Nevada and Southwestern Great Basin

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