Thursday, December 6, 2007

Species Profile: The Neosho Madtom

Let's go looking for Neosho Madtoms!
(I look silly in waders)

The Neosho Madtom is a state and federally listed threatened species. The species occurs only within the Neosho River basin. Individuals are usually small (1-2 inches as adults) and often only live one year. They are primarily consumers of benthic invertebrates.

The species first got listed back in 1990, and it has been the subject of some fairly testy back and forth between regulators and gravel harvesters ever since. KDWP suspended all gravel harvesting options for a while, then allowed them to continue within some limits. Needless to say, this ticked off the gravel harvesters, one of whom successfully sued KDWP for the lost income. Some of these guys are extremely bitter about the whole thing. For some reason I've had three requests to do these gravel harvesting operations in the past month, saturating all the available permits for the Neosho River.

Unfortunately, below is the best picture I have of the fish, since we were largely unsuccessful in finding the little guys.

Back in the mid-90s the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS; the federal agency tasked with enforcing the Endangered Species Act) issued an opinion about gravel-harvesting options in the Neosho and Cottonwood Rivers. In essence, they said that the gravel harvesting was possibly damaging the Neosho Madtom populations. As a result, a large, long-term study by FWS and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks has been occurring since then to figure out whether or not gravel harvesting is harming the Neosho Madtom.

The kinda non-intuitive part of this is that the gravel harvesters aren't even getting into the water. That picture above is of a gravel bar in early November. The gravel harvesters are pulling gravel out from above the waterline. So why might these operations be a problem? Basically, when the river floods, the madtoms may be moving up onto the flooded gravel bars and using them as a site for reproduction. What happens when gravel is being removed? The answer is we don't know. But we will.

No comments: