Success of westslope cutthroat trout and arctic grayling conservation translocations in Yellowstone National Park, Montana and Wyoming, USA
Puchany, Andriana Rachel
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Restoration of native Westslope Cutthroat Trout Oncorhynchus clarkii lewisi and fluvial Arctic Grayling Thymallus arcticus in Yellowstone National Park is a high priority for fishery managers. Restoration of the East Fork Specimen Creek and Grayling Creek watersheds included construction of fish barriers to isolate watersheds, application of rotenone to eliminate nonnative and hybridized fish, and translocations of native fish. We sampled these watersheds in 2018 and 2019 to evaluate the success of restoration efforts by 1) estimating the stage of recovery achieved by translocated populations, 2) determining contributions of Westslope Cutthroat Trout donor sources to the translocated populations in the East Fork Specimen Creek watershed by investigating their genetic ancestries, and 3) making comparisons of recovery between the East Fork Specimen and Grayling Creek watersheds. Recovery of Westslope Cutthroat Trout in both watersheds is progressing, with expected differences in stage of recovery between the two watersheds attributable to a 5-year difference in restoration timelines. Conversely, recovery of Arctic Grayling in Grayling Creek appears improbable without management intervention, but the surprising documentation of naturally reproduced individuals engenders a hopeful future for continued Arctic Grayling recovery efforts. Interspecific hybrid introgression discovered in Westslope Cutthroat Trout populations in East Fork Specimen and Grayling creeks probably resulted from barrier failure or incomplete eradication of hybrid fish during rotenone treatments. Whereas all Westslope Cutthroat Trout donor sources contributed to the recovering population in East Fork Specimen Creek, contributions were disproportionate to numbers translocated, indicating potential fitness differences among donor sources. Findings from this study have already helped Yellowstone National Park fishery managers make adaptive management decisions and will help inform future native fish conservation translocations.