Yellowcheek Darter

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The Final Yellowcheek Darter Recovery Plan is now available. Click for the News Release, Recovery Implementation Strategy, and the Species Biological Report.

Learn about how the Yellowcheek Darter is protected by the Upper Little Red River Safe Harbor Agreement.

Learn more about critical habitat here.

Yellowcheek Darter (Etheostoma moorei)
Status: Endangered, with designated critical habitat.
Listed: September 8, 2011; Critical habitat designated October 16, 2012

For more information about the Yellowcheek Darter or the Upper Little Red River Safe Harbor Agreement, contact Melissa Lombardi at melissa_lombardi@fws.gov or (501) 513-4488.

Species Facts:
The yellowcheek darter is a small fish, approximately two inches long. Spawning occurs in late May through June in swift, turbulent portions of riffles around or under the largest substrate particles available. The primary foods are aquatic fly larvae such as immature stoneflies, mayflies, and caddisflies.

Habitat Summary:
The yellowcheek darter only occurs in the upper Little Red River drainage above Greers Ferry Lake in Cleburne, Searcy, Stone, and Van Buren counties, Arkansas. Remaining populations occur in the South Fork, Middle Fork, Archey Creek, and Devils Fork (including Turkey and Beech Fork segments) tributaries of the Little Red River. Much of the Yellowcheek Darter's original habitat was innundated with the construction of Greers Ferry Lake in the 1960s.

This fish occupies small to medium high gradient, clear rivers, in swift to moderate riffles with gravel, rubble, and boulder bottoms with of depths of 10-20 inches.

Why Endangered:
Much of the Yellowcheek Darter's original habitat was innundated with the construction of Greers Ferry Lake in the 1960s. Estimated population size dropped from approximately 60,000 individuals in the 1970s to approximately 10,000 in 2000. Threats include activities such as impoundment, sedimentation, poor livestock grazing practices, improper timber harvest practices, nutrient enrichment, gravel mining, channelization/channel instability, and natural gas development.

The Yellowcheek Darter is covered by the Upper Little Red River Safe Harbor Agreement (ULRR SHA). This is a voluntary agreement involving private or non-federal landowners whose actions help contribute to the recovery of this and other federally-listed species. Find out more about ULRR SHA here.

Critical Habitat:
Critical habitat is designated when there are geographic areas containing features we believe are essential to the conservation of a species. Designation of Critical Habitat does not affect land ownership or establish a refuge, reserve, preserve, or other conservation area. It does not affect activities on the land unless they are funded by federal dollars. Learn more about critical habitat here.

The designation of critical habitat for the yellowcheek darter by the Service considers physical or biological features essential to the conservation of the species. These include, but are not limited to:

  1. Space for individual and population growth and for normal behavior;
  2. Food, water, air, light, minerals, or other nutritional or physiological requirements;
  3. Cover or shelter;
  4. Sites for breeding, reproduction, or rearing (or development) of offspring; and
  5. Habitats that are protected from disturbance or are representative of the historical, geographical, and ecological distribution of a species.

Primary constituent elements are those specific elements of the physical or biological features that provide for a species’ life history processes and are essential to the conservation of the species. Based on our current knowledge of the physical or biological features and habitat characteristics required to sustain life history processes for the yellowcheek darter, the primary constituent elements specific to this species are:

  1. Primary Constituent Element 1—Geomorphically stable, second- to fifth order streams with riffle habitats, and connectivity between spawning, foraging, and resting sites to promote gene flow within the species’ range where possible.

  2. Primary Constituent Element 2—Stable bottom composed of relatively silt-free, moderate to strong velocity riffles with gravel, cobble, and boulder substrates.

  3. Primary Constituent Element 3—An instream flow regime (magnitude, frequency, duration, and seasonality of discharge over time) sufficient to provide permanent surface flows, as measured during years with average rainfall, and to maintain benthic habitats utilized by the species.

  4. Primary Constituent Element 4—Adequate water quality characterized by moderate stream temperatures, acceptable dissolved oxygen concentrations, moderate pH, and low levels of pollutants. Adequate water quality is defined as the quality necessary for normal behavior, growth, and viability of all life stages of the yellowcheek darter.

  5. Primary Constituent Element 5—Prey base of aquatic macroinvertebrates, including blackfly larvae, stonefly larvae, mayfly nymphs, and caddisfly larvae.

Range in Arkansas:

Arkansas Field Office
110 S. Amity Road
Suite 300
Conway, AR 72032

501/513 4470 (v)
501/513 4480 (f)

Last Updated: December 30, 2015

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