KDWP Successfully Stocks Two Protected Species Back into Kansas Waters
Freshwater mussels – essentially clams that have adapted to live in freshwater streams, rivers, and lakes – reach their greatest diversity in North America. Nearly 300 species of mussels occur in the U.S., 40 of which reside in Kansas. Of those in Kansas, nearly 60 percent have some level of conservation concern and most have disappeared from part of their historical range.
PRATT – Fisheries and Ecological Services staff at the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks are taking action to bolster some of the state’s most at-risk aquatic species. Via the Department’s Aquatic Species Recovery Program and Kansas Aquatic Biodiversity Center, located at the Farlington Fish Hatchery, staff work together to propagate, grow, and stock vulnerable aquatic species back into their former habitats; and this fall, that included two protected freshwater mussel species.
Fatmucket Mussels in Marmaton River
KDWP first released 7,175 Fatmucket mussels – ranging in age from 1-3 years old – into the Marmaton River to bolster local populations. These were the first mussels ever released from the KABC, which opened its doors in 2018. And while Fatmuckets occur throughout central North America, they are considered a Species in Need of Conservation in Kansas.
“We chose the Marmaton River as the release site due to historical data and current observations that indicate the species is native to this drainage,” said Seth Lundgren, KDWP district fisheries biologist. “It also helped that the parental stock came from a shared tributary of the Marais Des Cygnes River, ensuring the correct genetics were also released into the drainage.”
Lundgren added that, prior to stocking, each of the offspring were marked with a unique “glue dot” that can be used by researchers for future identification.
Neosho Mucket Mussels in Neosho River
The second successful stocking of a protected species occurred later in the same week when approximately 1,374 federally-endangered Neosho Mucket mussels were released into the Neosho River. The offspring were the result of populations housed at the Neosho National Fish Hatchery and Kansas City Zoo and Aquarium. The Neosho Mucket occurs in Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma but no longer occurs in 62 percent of its historical range.
“This stocking was the first of its kind conducted under KDWP’s Aquatic Species Recovery Program,” said Trevor Starks, KDWP species recovery coordinator. “Landowner agreements signed under this program seek to reestablish self-sustaining populations of imperiled fish and mussel species in order to recover, delist, and deregulate those populations. These agreements provide regulatory protections to landowners who wish to partner with the agency to allow species releases and monitoring on their property.”
More Conservation Stockings to Come
Staff at KDWP have several additional conservation stockings like these planned for 2024, including 18,000 mussels set to be released in southeastern Kansas as soon as drought conditions improve. The KABC has also been working to rear Plains Minnows, classified as a state-threatened species, for release back into their historic range in areas where they have since disappeared.
Landowners interested in helping recover imperiled species through the Kansas Aquatic Species Recovery Program are encouraged to contact Starks at [email protected].
For more information on threatened, endangered, and SINC species in Kansas, visit ksoutdoors.com/Services/