Oncorhynchus mykiss whitei - (Evermann, 1906)
Little Kern Golden Trout
Synonym(s): Oncorhynchus aguabonita whitei (Evermann, 1906)
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Oncorhynchus mykiss whitei (Evermann, 1906) (TSN 591704)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.103612
Element Code: AFCHA0209B
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Fishes - Bony Fishes - Salmon and Trouts
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Actinopterygii Salmoniformes Salmonidae Oncorhynchus
Genus Size: C - Small genus (6-20 species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Smith, G. R., and R. F. Stearley. 1989. The classification and scientific names of rainbow and cutthroat trouts. Fisheries (Bethesda) 14(1):4-10.
Concept Reference Code: A89SMI01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Oncorhynchus mykiss whitei
Taxonomic Comments: Berg (1987) concluded that the two recognized subspecies of "O. aguabonita" are more closely related to the Kern River rainbow trout (O. mykiss gilberti) than they are to each other; hence they were regarded as subspecies of O. mykiss (followed by Moyle et al. 1989). The 1991 AFS checklist (Robins et al. 1991) and Page and Burr (1991) continued to recognize aguabonita and mykiss as separate species, but they did not comment upon the findings of Berg (1987). Behnke (1992) grouped the Kern and Little Kern golden trout as one subspecies (gilberti) of O. mykiss. He stated that they could be recognized as separate subspecies (gilberti and whitei, respectively) provided they are kept together in the same species (O. mykiss). Behnke indicated that whitei may be indistinguishable from gilberti. Behnke (2002) treated these forms as three subspecies: Golden Trout Creek golden trout or California golden trout (O. mykiss aguabonita), Kern River rainbow trout (O. mykiss gilberti), and Little Kern River golden trout (O. mykiss whitei).
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5T2
Global Status Last Reviewed: 16Jul2013
Global Status Last Changed: 25Sep1996
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by calculator
Rounded Global Status: T2 - Imperiled
Reasons: Small range in the Little Kern River drainage, Tulare County, California; protection and restoration have improved status, but still affected by and vulnerable to detrimental introductions of other salmonids.
Nation: United States
National Status: N2 (05Dec1996)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States California (S2)

Other Statuses

U.S. Endangered Species Act (USESA): LT: Listed threatened (13Apr1978)
Comments on USESA: Listed Threatened as Oncorhynchus aguabonita whitei.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Lead Region: R8 - California-Nevada
American Fisheries Society Status: Endangered (01Aug2008)

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: <100 square km (less than about 40 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: This subspecies is native to and still occurs in the Little Kern River drainage, Tulare County, California; it occurs above the falls on the lower river (Moyle 2002).

Historically, the Little Kern golden trout occupied approximately 160 kilometers of the Little Kern River and its tributaries (Moyle 2002). By 1973, the range was greatly reduced to five headwater streams (upper Soda Springs Creek, Deadman Creek, lower wet meadows creek, Willow Creek, and Fish Creek), and an introduced population in Coyote Creek, or approximately 10 percent of the historical range (Christenson 1984, Moyle 2002). Between 1974 and 1995, a series of chemical treatments were conducted in an effort to remove introgressed Little Kern golden trout populations throughout the basin. Little Kern golden trout were then reintroduced from a few local donor populations, yet introgressed populations continue to persist in the Little Kern River drainage (Stephens 2007). The current range of the Little Kern golden trout is therefore difficult to ascertain because restocked populations continue to exhibit rainbow trout alleles at low, moderate and even high levels (USFWS 2011). The most recent genetic evidence suggests that the least genetically compromised Little Kern golden trout populations (exhibiting between 0-2 percent introgression levels) exist in Upper North Fork Clicks Creek, Upper Clicks Creek, Trout Meadow Creek, Little Kern River above Broder's cabin, and Little Kern River above Wet Meadow Creek (Stephens 2007, 2010), With the exception of Coyote Creek, a stream immediately adjacent to the Little Kern River drainage, no known populations of Little Kern golden trout occur outside of the Little Kern River watershed (C. McGuire, personal communication, 2011, cited by USFWS 2011).

Area of Occupancy: 6-25 4-km2 grid cells
Area of Occupancy Comments:  

Number of Occurrences: 1 - 20
Number of Occurrences Comments: Current distribution of pure Little Kern golden trout is limited to a few small populations (USFWS 2011).

Population Size: 2500 - 10,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Due to both inconsistent count methodology and incorrect assumptions concerning the level of hybridization, the current abundance of the Little Kern golden trout cannot be determined (USFWS 2011). However, based on occupied stream kilometers and typical densities (see USFWS 2011), the overall population likely is at least several thousand.

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Very few to few (1-12)

Overall Threat Impact: Medium
Overall Threat Impact Comments: The principal cause of decline was hybridization with introduced coastal rainbow trout; other causes of decline included competition with non-native salmonids such as brook trout, and habitat degradation from logging and grazing practices (Christenson 1978, Moyle 2002). Mining and logging currently are not regarded as significant threats, but livestock grazing may be affecting some populations (USFWS 2011).

The most recent genetic studies, using both mitochondrial and nuclear DNA, suggest that while some populations show low levels of introgression, others continue to show moderate levels (Stephens 2007, Stephens and May 2010). With respect to the moderate and high levels of hybridization, Upper Mountaineer Creek, Alpine Creek, Jacobson Creek, South Mountaineer Creek, Shotgun Creek, Peck's Canyon Creek, Lion Creek, Tamarack Creek, Little Kern River at Burnt Corral, Lower Maggie Lake, and Silver Lake all provide serious concerns for the genetic integrity of the Little Kern golden trout (USFWS 2011).

Hybridization with introduced rainbow trout is still a threat (Moyle 2002). There is a constant threat from introductions of other salmonids by disgruntled anglers.

Due to reduced genetic variation, Little Kern golden trout populations may be particularly vulnerable to stochastic events and/or changing habitat conditions associated with climate change (USFWS 2011). Predicted outcomes of climate change imply that negative impacts on trout will occur through increases in stream temperatures, decreases in stream flow, and broader changes to the stream hydrograph (USFWS 2011).

This fish can withstand light use of streams by humans. Recreational use associated with trails and route proliferation does not appear to be a threat at this time (USFWS 2011).

Short-term Trend: Relatively Stable (<=10% change)
Short-term Trend Comments: Trend over the past 10 years or three generations is uncertain, but distribution and abundance probably have been relatively stable.

Long-term Trend: Decline of 50-90%
Long-term Trend Comments: Prior to federal listing, unhybridized populations of this subspecies were reduced to about 10 percent of the original 160 km of stream (Moyle 2002). The presence of hybrid trouts in the native range of this subspecies is still a problem (Moyle 2002, USFWS 2011).

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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Global Range: (<100 square km (less than about 40 square miles)) This subspecies is native to and still occurs in the Little Kern River drainage, Tulare County, California; it occurs above the falls on the lower river (Moyle 2002).

Historically, the Little Kern golden trout occupied approximately 160 kilometers of the Little Kern River and its tributaries (Moyle 2002). By 1973, the range was greatly reduced to five headwater streams (upper Soda Springs Creek, Deadman Creek, lower wet meadows creek, Willow Creek, and Fish Creek), and an introduced population in Coyote Creek, or approximately 10 percent of the historical range (Christenson 1984, Moyle 2002). Between 1974 and 1995, a series of chemical treatments were conducted in an effort to remove introgressed Little Kern golden trout populations throughout the basin. Little Kern golden trout were then reintroduced from a few local donor populations, yet introgressed populations continue to persist in the Little Kern River drainage (Stephens 2007). The current range of the Little Kern golden trout is therefore difficult to ascertain because restocked populations continue to exhibit rainbow trout alleles at low, moderate and even high levels (USFWS 2011). The most recent genetic evidence suggests that the least genetically compromised Little Kern golden trout populations (exhibiting between 0-2 percent introgression levels) exist in Upper North Fork Clicks Creek, Upper Clicks Creek, Trout Meadow Creek, Little Kern River above Broder's cabin, and Little Kern River above Wet Meadow Creek (Stephens 2007, 2010), With the exception of Coyote Creek, a stream immediately adjacent to the Little Kern River drainage, no known populations of Little Kern golden trout occur outside of the Little Kern River watershed (C. McGuire, personal communication, 2011, cited by USFWS 2011).

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
Endemism: endemic to a single state or province

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States CA

Range Map
No map available.


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
CA Tulare (06107)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
18 Upper Kern (18030001)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: A trout with black-spotted dorsal and caudal fins, golden sides, red belly, red-orange lateral band; less than 71 cm long.
Reproduction Comments: Spawns usually in late June; males are sexually mature in about two years, females in three years (Matthews and Moseley 1990).
Habitat Type: Freshwater
Non-Migrant: N
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Riverine Habitat(s): CREEK, High gradient, MEDIUM RIVER, Pool, Riffle
Special Habitat Factors: Benthic
Habitat Comments: Small, clear, cool, swift-flowing streams (Matthews and Moseley 1990). Little Kern golden trout require cool, oxygenated water with significant clean gravel for reproduction (USFWS 2011).
Adult Food Habits: Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Invertivore
Food Comments: Food primarily aquatic insects.
Length: 31 centimeters
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary
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Stewardship Overview: Restoration efforts have focused primarily on removing introgressed populations and non-native salmonids and constructing fish barriers to prevent upstream movement of non-native fishes.(USFWS 2011). Introduced populations of brook and rainbow trout have been greatly reduced via chemical treatments in the Little Kern drainage, and it is unlikely that brown trout occupy the drainage due to effective fish barriers on the Little Kern River. However, chemical treatments used to eradicate these fishes ended in 1995 and more recent data on the distribution of these introduced fishes in the Little Kern River and its tributaries are not currently available (USFWS 2011).

Revised Fishery Management Plan for the Little Kern golden trout requires: 1) periodic habitat surveys of instream, riparian, and greater landscape processes, 2) restoration of damaged habitat in portions of Fish Creek, Lion creek, Grey Meadow Creek, Coffin Meadow, Round Meadow, Jug Spring, Clicks Creek and other areas as needed and where feasible, 3) resource monitoring programs at five representative sites through periodic sampling of abiotic and biotic factors, and 4) acquisition of land area within the critical habitat boundary when possible (USFWS 2011).

USFWS (2011) made the following recommendations for conservation actions over the next five years:

1. Update the current Fishery Management Plan with a formal genetics management plan for the Little Kern River drainage with specific actions that increase genetic diversity and restore pure populations of Little Kern golden trout throughout their entire historical range. Regularly monitor Little Kern golden trout population trends throughout the drainage as guided by the most recent genetic information. If Little Kern golden trout hatchery programs are reinitiated, ensure facilities are entirely separated from rainbow trout production programs.

2. Initiate a systematic habitat monitoring program in the Little Kern drainage that regularly (every five years) assesses stream conditions throughout the drainage, including both abiotic (temperature, water quality, bank stabilization, sediment distribution, riparian vegetation recruitment, etc.) and biotic (macroinvertebrate surveys and Little Kern golden trout population surveys) factors. More sensitive stream sites, such as those located in the Little Kern and Jordan grazing allotments should be monitored more regularly (every two years).

3. Install and regularly maintain riparian fencing on streams in the Little Kern and Jordan grazing allotments, especially those in low gradient meadow reaches such as Lion, Grey, and Loggy meadows.

4. Regularly evaluate the structural integrity of stream barriers and their ability to inhibit the dispersal of non-native salmonids throughout the Little Kern River drainage (especially during high water years) and make improvements where necessary. Assess the benefits of barriers in terms of preventing non-native salmonid dispersal and compare with the potential genetic costs of these barriers in terms of reducing gene flow between naturally occurring populations of Little Kern golden trout.

Population/Occurrence Delineation Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 16Jul2013
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Hammerson, G.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 16Jul2013
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
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  • Behnke, R. J. 1980. Monograph of the native trouts of the genus SALMO of western North America. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Denver.

  • Behnke, R. J. 1992. Native trout of western North America. American Fisheries Society Monograph 6. xx + 275 pp.

  • Behnke, R. J. 2002. Trout and salmon of North America. The Free Press, New York, New York. 359 pp.

  • Christenson, D. P. 1984. The revised fishery management plan for the Little Kern Golden Trout. California Fish and Game, Region 4. 36 pp.

  • Eschmeyer, William N. (editor). 1998. Catalog of fishes. Volumes 1-3. California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, California. 958 pp. Updates available online at: http://www.calacademy.org/research/ichthyology/catalog/

  • Jelks, H. L., S. J. Walsh, N. M. Burkhead, S. Contreras-Balderas, E. Díaz-Pardo, D. A. Hendrickson, J. Lyons, N. E. Mandrak, F. McCormick, J. S. Nelson, S. P. Platania, B. A. Porter, C. B. Renaud, J. Jacobo Schmitter-Soto, E. B. Taylor, and M.L. Warren, Jr. 2008. Conservation status of imperiled North American freshwater and diadromous fishes. Fisheries 33(8):372-407.

  • Matthews, J.R. and C.J. Moseley (eds.). 1990. The Official World Wildlife Fund Guide to Endangered Species of North America. Volume 1. Plants, Mammals. xxiii + pp 1-560 + 33 pp. appendix + 6 pp. glossary + 16 pp. index. Volume 2. Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, Fishes, Mussels, Crustaceans, Snails, Insects, and Arachnids. xiii + pp. 561-1180. Beacham Publications, Inc., Washington, D.C.

  • Moyle, P. B. 1976a. Inland fishes of California. University of California Press, Berkeley, California. 405 pp.

  • Page, L. M., and B. M. Burr. 1991. A field guide to freshwater fishes: North America north of Mexico. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts. 432 pp.

  • Robins, C.R., R.M. Bailey, C.E. Bond, J.R. Brooker, E.A. Lachner, R.N. Lea, and W.B. Scott. 1991. Common and scientific names of fishes from the United States and Canada. American Fisheries Society, Special Publication 20. 183 pp.

  • Smith, G. R., and R. F. Stearley. 1989. The classification and scientific names of rainbow and cutthroat trouts. Fisheries (Bethesda) 14(1):4-10.

  • Stephens, M. R. 2007. Systematics, genetics, and conservation of golden trout. Ph.D. dissertation. University of California, Davis.

  • Stephens, M. R., and B. P. May. 2010. Final report: Genetic analysis of California native trout (Phase 2). Report to California Department of Fish and Game. Genomic Variation Laboratory, University of California, Davis. 24 pp.

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 1990. Endangered and threatened species recovery program: report to Congress. 406 pp.

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 2011. Little Kern golden Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss whitei) 5-year review: summary and evaluation. USFS, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, Sacramento, California.

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