Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

What Will the Chemical Rotenone Do to Yellowstone's Water Wildlife?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

What Will the Chemical Rotenone Do to Yellowstone's Water Wildlife?

Article excerpt

As the cutthroat trout in Yellowstone National Park struggles to survive under the ecological pressure of an invasive species of brook trout, wildlife experts have turned to a chemical poisoning treatment as the solution.

After the cutthroat trout are stunned and removed from the river, rotenone, a chemical that clogs the gills of fish, will be distributed throughout parts of the park's water system, particularly Soda Butte Creek. Once the brook trout are eliminated, the cutthroat trout will be reintroduced to the river.

Poisoning an entire river may seem like an extreme solution, but it is the approach that is most likely to get the job done, officials say.

"It would be almost an impossibility to remove all of the non- native brook trout individually because of the sheer numbers and the size of the system," Timothy R. Strakosh, a scientist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, tells The Christian Science Monitor.

Rotenone is fast-acting. It only stays in the water system for a matter of hours, does not effect the potability of the water, and only targets a specific cross section of organisms: larger fish with gills.

"Systems tend to recover quickly if all the appropriate measures are taken and it sounds like that is exactly what they are doing in the Yellowstone systems," Dr. Strakosh tells the Monitor. "It is like a little reset button for the system. Generally within a year or two you wouldn't even be able to tell that there was any sort of event."

But as long as the brook trout remain, the cutthroat trout population is dwindling.

"The park places a high priority on preservation and recovery of this cutthroat trout population because of its importance in maintaining the integrity of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, arguably the most intact, naturally functioning ecosystem remaining in the continental United States," park officials wrote. "Grizzly bears, bald eagles, and many other avian and terrestrial species use cutthroat trout as an energy source."

According to the National Park Service, the native cutthroat trout plays the most important ecological role of any fish in the park. …

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