Study: Warming Climate Could Cut Trout Habitats, Could Help Some in High Elevations of Bighorns

Cutthroat Trout in Yellowstone National Park. (Photo courtesy of National Parks Service)
Cutthroat Trout in Yellowstone National Park. (Photo courtesy of National Parks Service)

A report from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that was released in mid-August said that cutthroat trout may be one species of trout that are particularly susceptible to a warming climate.

In theory, WGFD Fisheries Biologist Bill Bradshaw says explains how warming temperatures would specifically affect trout.

Cutthroat habitats are already affected by competing species such as brook and brown trout, so their habitats are limited. There are only five, isolated populations of cutthroat trout in the Big Horn Mountains, Bradshaw said.

On Aug. 29, the WGFD and Big Horn National Forest restocked the Little Tongue River with 10,000 cutthroat trout after removing competing trout species from the area.

Bradshaw went on to explain one area of trout habitats in the Big Horns that could possibly benefit from a warming climate.

Even taking higher-elevation habitats into account, the study said that cutthroat trout are at risk of losing about half of their habitat by 2080, according to AP reports. No impact of climate change has shown in trout populations so far. The study was based on surveys from portions of states including: Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, and Idaho, the AP report said.

Warmer temperatures cause warmer winters which bring more floods during the winter and wash away brook and brown trout eggs held in gravel, the study said.

View the full peer-reviewed study.

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