More tests set for Yellowstone, tributaries after fish kill

BILLINGS, Mont. — Wildlife workers will conduct tests on fish from additional areas of Montana to determine the extent of a disease blamed in a massive fish kill along the Yellowstone River, officials said Monday.

The state indefinitely closed a 183-mile stretch of the river to all recreational activities on Friday after thousands of dead fish washed up along the river's banks in the Paradise Valley area north of Yellowstone National Park.

Biologists are trying to determine if the little-understood parasite that's blamed for the deaths has infected fish further downstream and in several major tributaries. Those tributaries also were closed under the order from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Crews will be collecting fish throughout the week on the Yellowstone downstream of Springdale and on three tributaries — the Shields, Boulder and Stillwater rivers, said Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokeswoman Andrea Jones.

Results of laboratory tests are expected within a few days of collection. The parasite at issue causes infected fish to develop proliferative kidney disease. Warm water temperatures and low river levels have worsened the problem by stressing the Yellowstone's fish populations and making them more prone to dying.

The river's closure during the busy summer season dealt a major blow to fishing guides, fly shops, rafting companies and others who work in the region's thriving outdoors industry.

Officials have warned the closure could last for weeks or even months. It's intended to prevent the parasite from spreading to other waterways via contaminated boats, fishing waders or other gear.

However, state officials have acknowledged the order is all but impossible to enforce and they're counting heavily on voluntary compliance. The order did not apply to Yellowstone National Park.

Eric Burge of Livingston was among those forced to change plans, prematurely ending what was to have been a multi-day float trip down the river. As he washed down his raft with a washcloth, Burge said he was disappointed but was "here for the long haul."

"I love this river and am happy to take off it and put back on another day when there's not a potential to damage other waterways," he said.

So far, most of the fish killed have been whitefish. Few have been trout, a highly prized species among many anglers.

Dozens of independent outfitters depend on the trout fishery in the Yellowstone, charging clients up to $500 a day for a guided float trip, said Leslie Feigel, executive director for the Livingston Chamber of Commerce.

Some of those guides can relocate to rivers outside the closure area if they have the proper permits, but that's not the case for everyone, she said.

If the fish kill had happened in June, the consequences would have been far worse, Feigel added.

Gov. Steve Bullock planned to visit the river Tuesday, state officials said.

A community meeting on the closure and fish kill was scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday at Park County Fairgrounds in Livingston.

Jones said members of the public want to know when the river will open.

"That's something we can't say, but we can help them understand why it is closed to this extent," she said.

___

Follow Matthew Brown on Twitter at https://twitter.com/matthewbrownap

Related News

Image of Asia: Taking part in the festival of the janai

Aug 18, 2016

Image of Asia: A Hindu priest adjusts his hair while performing rituals during Janai Purnima in Kathmandu, Nepal

A festival to remember a riot? New York event stirs debate

Aug 18, 2016

A plan to mark the 25th anniversary of one of New York City's most searing race riots with a family oriented festival has brought criticism from relatives of a man killed in the violence

Rare Tyrannosaurus rex skull arrives at Seattle museum

Aug 19, 2016

Paleontologists with Seattle's Burke Museum have unearthed the bones of a Tyrannosaurus rex that lived more than 66 million years ago, including a rare nearly complete 4-foot long skull

Must Read

Popular Yellowstone River closes after thousands of fish die

Aug 19, 2016

Montana is indefinitely closing a 183-mile stretch of the Yellowstone River and hundreds of miles of other waterways to fishing, rafting and other activities to prevent the spread of a parasite believed to have killed tens of thousands of fish

Park Service celebrates 100 years, seeks minorities' support

Aug 24, 2016

The National Park Service celebrates its 100th birthday Thursday

For 10 years, possibly biggest pearl was hidden under bed

Aug 25, 2016

A Filipino fisherman in western Palawan island has found possibly the world's biggest pearl, which he had hidden under a bed for 10 years as a lucky charm, a tourism official said Thursday

About Us

Tale Out is your go-to website when it comes to global travel and lifestyle news. If you need suggestions for the most relaxing places for vacation or some zen spa retreat, we have it all here in Tale Out.

Contact us: sales@taleout.com