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Protecting Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout From Outside Park Boundaries

An effort to save Yellowstone cutthroat trout may involve poisoning brook trout in the Soda Butte Creek outside the Park boundaries.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials are looking at poisoning brook trout originating from a 12-mile stretch of Soda Butte Creek located outside Cooke City. While it was assumed there were some natural barriers blocking the brook trout from entering the Park and affecting Yellowstone rainbow trout, new research indicates poisoning Soda Butte Creek is the most effective course of action after a decade of more modest actions. From the Billings Gazette’s Brett French:

All of the work on Soda Butte Creek ties in to an overarching plan to try and restore Yellowstone cutthroat trout habitat in the upper reaches of the Yellowstone River — once a stronghold for the fish. During the past few years, park staff has redoubled its efforts to protect existing cutthroat trout and remove nonnatives.

“These actions on Soda Butte Creek are just part of an overall strategy to conserve the cutthroat trout of the Lamar River watershed,” wrote Todd Koel, director of Yellowstone’s native fish conservation program, in an email.

This is an incredibly complex problem: in an environment where there are hundreds of places brook trout can escape attention, it’s taken a decade of efforts just to reach this point — and more extreme measures may be needed.

Image courtesy National Park Service.

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