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Project planned to conserve native flannelmouth and bluehead suckers

CHEYENNE - The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is investing to conserve two native Wyoming fish species in the Big Sandy River. The flannelmouth sucker and the bluehead sucker have experienced recent population decreases because of hybridization and predation, but a new fish passage project is set to protect these species from further decline. This type of project can also help prevent species from needing to go on the endangered species list.

Populations of flannelmouth sucker and the bluehead sucker face significant challenges without intervention. Predation in the Big Sandy River, as a result of illegal burbot introduction, prevents young fish from surviving. And, because other sucker species, like white suckers who will hybridize, genetically pure flannelmouths and blueheads are becoming more rare.

"Protecting all fish populations in Wyoming is important - not just the sportfish," said Robb Keith, Game and Fish Green River regional fisheries supervisor. "This fish barrier is a means to conserve these native species by providing an area in the Big Sandy River where other predatory fish cannot access."

The multi-year planned fish passage project includes several steps, the first of which is building a fish barrier on the Big Sandy River to help protect the genetically pure populations. The barrier is set to be built on state land. Plans are also in place to capture flannelmouths and blueheads to transfer to the East Fork Facility of the Game and Fish Boulder Rearing Station to hold them while the nonnative fish are removed from the stream.

"Protecting flannelmouth and bluehead suckers will ensure that Wyoming’s wildlife are managed by the state and conserved for the future," said Dirk Miller, Game and Fish deputy chief of fisheries.

(Wyoming Game and Fish (307) 777-4600)

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