Acipenser transmontanus pop. 1
White Sturgeon - Kootenai River
Other English Common Names: White Sturgeon - Upper Kootenay River Population
Taxonomic Status: Provisionally accepted
French Common Names: esturgeon blanc - population du cours supérieur de la rivière Kootenay
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.104923
Element Code: AFCAA01051
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Fishes - Bony Fishes - Other Bony Fishes
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Actinopterygii Acipenseriformes Acipenseridae Acipenser
Genus Size: C - Small genus (6-20 species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 1993. Proposed endangered status for the Kootenai River population of the white sturgeon. Federal Register 58(128):36379-36388. 7 July 1993.
Concept Reference Code: A93FWS10NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Acipenser transmontanus pop. 1
Taxonomic Comments: Genetic analysis indicates that this population is a unique stock and constitutes a distinct breeding population (Setter and Brannon 1990, cited by USFWS 1994).The Upper Kootenay River population is designated by COSEWIC.
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G4T1Q
Global Status Last Reviewed: 17Feb2006
Global Status Last Changed: 10Sep2001
Rounded Global Status: T1 - Critically Imperiled
Reasons: Limited range in the Kootenai River of British Columbia, Idaho, and Montana; population is isolated and small (1468 adults); very limited reproduction since 1977; negatively impacted by river impoundment and probably other habitat alterations; uncertain whether recent spawning will result in adequate recruitment for recovery.
Nation: United States
National Status: N1 (05Sep1996)
Nation: Canada
National Status: N1 (27Dec2012)

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 Idaho (S1), Montana (SNR)
Canada British Columbia (S1)

Other Statuses

U.S. Endangered Species Act (USESA): LE: Listed endangered (06Sep1994)
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Lead Region: R1 - Pacific
Canadian Species at Risk Act (SARA) Schedule 1/Annexe 1 Status: E (15Aug2006)
Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC): Endangered (25Nov2012)
Comments on COSEWIC: This large-bodied fish occurs at only one or two locations in the upper Kootenay River. The species has declined considerably over the last century, to fewer than 1,000 adults, owing to habitat fragmentation and degradation, and recruitment failure. Modeling predicts an 80% chance of extinction of the population within the next two generations.
The species was considered a single unit and designated Special Concern in April 1990. Status re-examined and designated Endangered in November 2003. Split into four populations in November 2012. The Upper Kootenay River population was designated Endangered in November 2012.

IUCN Red List Category: EN - Endangered
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species Protection Status (CITES): Appendix II

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent Comments: Exists in only in 270 river kilometers (168 miles) of the Kootenai River from Kootenai Falls, Montana, downstream through Kootenay Lake to Corra Lynn Dam at the outflow from Kootenay Lake in British Columbia (USFWS 2001); this range includes Idaho as well as British Columbia and Montana; the population apparently does not commonly occur upstream of Bonners Ferry, Idaho (Apperson and Anders 1991). About 45 percent of the population's range is in British Columbia (USFWS 2001). Currently known to spawn only in a reach near Bonners Ferry, Idaho, 100 km downstream from Libby Dam (Paragamian et al. 2001). Of individuals tracked in 1989, at least 36 percent overwintered in Kootenay Lake (Apperson and Anders 1991). Bonnington Falls, a natural barrier downstream of Kootenay Lake, has isolated the Kootenay River population of white sturgeon for approximately 10,000 years, and the population is isolated from other populations downstream by Corra Lynn Dam (Apperson and Anders 1991).

This population is one of 18 land-locked populations of white sturgeon known to occur in western North America (USFWS 1994). The Kootenai River originates in Kootenay National Park in British Columbia, flows south into Montana, turns northwest into Idaho, and north through the Kootenai Valley back into British Columbia, where it flows through Kootenay Lake and eventually joins the Columbia River at Castlegar, British Columbia.

Area of Occupancy: 26-500 4-km2 grid cells
Area of Occupancy Comments:  

Number of Occurrences: 1 - 5
Number of Occurrences Comments: Single occurrence encompassing about 270 river kilometers (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2001).

Population Size: 1 - 1000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Global population estimate in 1990 was 880 (638-1,211) (Apperson and Anders 1991). Almost no recruitment has taken place since 1974, shortly after Libby Dam went into operation (Partridge 1983, Apperson and Anders 1991, Apperson 1992). According to the Bonneville Power Administration, the population in 1993 was about 785 (569-1080), based on recent estimates of annual mortality and no natural recruitment since 1990. Paragamian et al. (1997, cited by USFWS 2001) estimated that 1,468 adults (539 females) remain in the population. The juvenile population is not well documented but is believed to be small (USFWS 2001). Only 18 wild juveniles have been collected since 1993 (Duke and Hallock 2001).

Overall Threat Impact: Very high - high
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Flow regimes have been changed by Libby Dam, which is upstream of the entire global population; spring flows reduced by 50% and winter flows increased by 300%. This has affected sturgeon egg incubation substrates, insect production, and ecosystem nutrient delivery. Productive backwaters (nursery areas) have been flooded by reservoir waters. Additional factors may include: rapid, daily flow fluctuations; water temperature, water chemistry; loss of sloughs via dikes and fill; channelization; declining productivity of the river; and pollution via mining, industry, and inadequate waste water treatment (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1993, Duke and Hallock 2001). There is evidence that eggs and fry are experiencing exceptionally high levels of mortality. These factors have resulted in a lack of significant levels of recruitment in recent decades (USFWS 2001). Inadequate flows during migration and spawning (an order of magnitiude smaller than during pre-dam conditions) are thought to be an important impediment to recruitment; the only successful year-classes after construction of Libby Dam were produced apparently in 1974 and 1991, years of exceptionally high water. Augmented flows from Libby Dam during the 1990s led to limited (but not fully documented) juvenile recruitment (USFWS 2001). However, it is not clear whether poor recruitment is due to (1) a change to unsuitable spawning sites resulting from the operation of Libby Dam or (2) alteration of substrate at historical spawning sites, caused by Libby Dam operations (USFWS 2001). Paragamian et al. (2001) stated that preferred spawning habitat probably is no longer available.

Short-term Trend: Decline of >30%
Short-term Trend Comments: Has been in general decline since the mid-1960s (Duke and Hallock 2001). Declined from 1,194 in 1982 (Partridge 1983) to 880 in 1990 (Apperson and Anders 1991) to 785 in 1993 (USFWS 1994). Adult population was estimated in 1997 at 1,468 (see USFWS 2001). Little reproduction since 1977 (Apperson and Anders 1991, USFWS 2001). Recent spawning may or may not lead to sufficient recruitment to help recovery (Paragamian et al. 2001).

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Protection Needs: Operate Libby Dam such that successful natural recruitment is reestablished. If necessary, use hatchery propagation to prevent extinction. Protect sloughs from dike building and draining. See 1996 draft recovery plan (USFWS, Portland, Oregon).

Distribution
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Global Range: Exists in only in 270 river kilometers (168 miles) of the Kootenai River from Kootenai Falls, Montana, downstream through Kootenay Lake to Corra Lynn Dam at the outflow from Kootenay Lake in British Columbia (USFWS 2001); this range includes Idaho as well as British Columbia and Montana; the population apparently does not commonly occur upstream of Bonners Ferry, Idaho (Apperson and Anders 1991). About 45 percent of the population's range is in British Columbia (USFWS 2001). Currently known to spawn only in a reach near Bonners Ferry, Idaho, 100 km downstream from Libby Dam (Paragamian et al. 2001). Of individuals tracked in 1989, at least 36 percent overwintered in Kootenay Lake (Apperson and Anders 1991). Bonnington Falls, a natural barrier downstream of Kootenay Lake, has isolated the Kootenay River population of white sturgeon for approximately 10,000 years, and the population is isolated from other populations downstream by Corra Lynn Dam (Apperson and Anders 1991).

This population is one of 18 land-locked populations of white sturgeon known to occur in western North America (USFWS 1994). The Kootenai River originates in Kootenay National Park in British Columbia, flows south into Montana, turns northwest into Idaho, and north through the Kootenai Valley back into British Columbia, where it flows through Kootenay Lake and eventually joins the Columbia River at Castlegar, British Columbia.

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: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States ID, MT
Canada BC

Range Map
No map available.

Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: Large fish (white sturgeon).
General Description: Sturgeons have cartilaginous skeletons with a persistent notochord, a protractile tube-like mouth, and sensory barbels on the underside of the snout. White sturgeons are large fishes with 11-14 dorsal, 36-48 lateral, and 9-12 ventral scutes (bony plates). Smaller than ocean-going populations, with no reports larger than 200 lbs from the Kootenai River.
Reproduction Comments: Breeding occurs during the period of peak flows in late spring and early summer, April or May through July (USFWS 1993). Spawning occurs when the physical environment permits eggs development and cues ovulation. Only part of the adult population breeds each year, with females spawning every 2-11 years. White sturgeons are broadcast spawners, releasing eggs and sperm in fast water. Following fertilization, the eggs adhere to the bottom substrate and hatch after 8-15 days (Brannon et al. 1985). Larval with yolk-sacs drift in the current for several hours, then settle into interstitial spaces in the substrate. Larvae metamorphose in 20-30 days, when they disperse into the river and begin to actively feed (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1993). Females reach sexual maturity at 15-32 years, males sooner (Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission 1992).
Ecology Comments: Oldest of 342 captured in 1977-1982 was 44 years old (Partridge 1983).
Habitat Type: Freshwater
Non-Migrant: N
Locally Migrant: Y
Long Distance Migrant: N
Mobility and Migration Comments: Land-locked; not anadromous. Individuals migrate freely from Kootenay Lake to the Kootenai River upstream into Montana (Andrusak 1980). In fall, migrates from lower river and Kootenay Lake, British Columbia, to staging reaches, then migrates in spring to the spawning reach near Bonners Ferry (Paragamian et al. 2001). During late summer and fall they move into the deepest holes in the Kootenai River and Kootenay Lake (Apperson and Anders 1990).
Riverine Habitat(s): BIG RIVER, MEDIUM RIVER
Lacustrine Habitat(s): Deep water
Special Habitat Factors: Benthic
Habitat Comments: This sturgeon occurs in a deep lake and a large river. Kootenai River locations are generally more than 6 m deep with flows <0.77 ft/sec and temperatures of 57-68 degrees F (Hanson et al. 1992). Sturgeons move into the deepest holes on the river and in Kootenay Lake in late summer and fall, remain there for the winter.

Water depths of at least 5 meters, flows with a minimum mean water column velocity of at least 3.3 fps, stable, temperatures of roughly 50 F in May through July with no sudden drops in temperature exceeding 3.6 F, and rocky substrate for at least 5 miles are necessary for successful spawning that leads to recruitment into the adult population. Because the behavior of sturgeon results in spawning in areas that are not able to support egg incubation and embryo survival all three physical and biological components need to be present in the same place at the same time for successful spawning and recruitment (USFWS 2006).



Adult Food Habits: Invertivore, Piscivore
Immature Food Habits: Invertivore, Piscivore
Food Comments: A bottom feeder. Young feed mostly on the larvae of aquatic insects, crustaceans, and molluscs. A significant portion of the diet of larger sturgeon consists of fishes.
Length: 120 centimeters
Weight: 18000 grams
Economic Attributes
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Economic Comments: Discharge of water from Libby Dam needs management for this population to survive; this may at times decrease water available for water and power users.
Management Summary
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Management Requirements: Protect water quality. Adjust flow regimes adequate to stimulate spawning migrations (Paragamian and Kruse 2001) and to provide requirements for reproduction and survival (particularly of larvae and juveniles). If recent spawning does not recruit substantial year-classes, consideration should be given to measures that would provide coarser spawning substrates and warmer water temperatures (Paragamain et al. 2001). Flow management needs to be undertaken by Libby Dam for the population to survive. Details are given in U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (1993).

Augmented flows have resulted in some, but apparently quite limited, recruitment of juveniles into the population (USFWS 2001). Recent recovery actions also include a conservation aquaculture program to prevent extirpation and habitat restoration that involves fertilization of Kootenay Lake (Duke and Hallock 2001). The Kootenai River White Sturgeon Conservation Aquaculture Program, through release of hatchery-reared sturgeon, is providing frequent year classes from native broodstock (Ireland et al. 2002).

Monitoring Requirements: Paragamian and Kruse (2001) found that changes in water temperature and river stage were the best predictors of the probability that females would migrate to the spawning reach.
Biological Research Needs: More information on causes of lack of reproduction is needed for management.
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: 29Dec2010
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Reichel, J. D., and G. Hammerson
Management Information Edition Date: 10Feb2003
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 17Feb2006
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Reichel, J. D., and G. Hammerson

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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"Data provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Robert Ridgely, James Zook, The Nature Conservancy - Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International - CABS, World Wildlife Fund - US, and Environment Canada - WILDSPACE."

Citation for Mammal Range Maps of North America:
Patterson, B.D., G. Ceballos, W. Sechrest, M.F. Tognelli, T. Brooks, L. Luna, P. Ortega, I. Salazar, and B.E. Young. 2003. Digital Distribution Maps of the Mammals of the Western Hemisphere, version 1.0. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia, USA.

Acknowledgement Statement for Mammal Range Maps of North America:
"Data provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Bruce Patterson, Wes Sechrest, Marcelo Tognelli, Gerardo Ceballos, The Nature Conservancy-Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International-CABS, World Wildlife Fund-US, and Environment Canada-WILDSPACE."

Citation for Amphibian Range Maps of the Western Hemisphere:
IUCN, Conservation International, and NatureServe. 2004. Global Amphibian Assessment. IUCN, Conservation International, and NatureServe, Washington, DC and Arlington, Virginia, USA.

Acknowledgement Statement for Amphibian Range Maps of the Western Hemisphere:
"Data developed as part of the Global Amphibian Assessment and provided by IUCN-World Conservation Union, Conservation International and NatureServe."

NOTE: Full metadata for the Bird Range Maps of North America is available at:
http://www.natureserve.org/library/birdDistributionmapsmetadatav1.pdf.

Full metadata for the Mammal Range Maps of North America is available at:
http://www.natureserve.org/library/mammalsDistributionmetadatav1.pdf.

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