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Interagency Cooperation in Preparation for September Winged Mapleleaf Searches
Midwest Region, August 2, 2019
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Divers Byron Karns (NPS), Megan Bradley (FWS-GNFH), and Beth Glidewell (FWS-GNFH) prepare to search for winged mapleleaf aggregation lines on the St. Croix River. Not pictured is diver Allie Holdhusen (NPS).
Divers Byron Karns (NPS), Megan Bradley (FWS-GNFH), and Beth Glidewell (FWS-GNFH) prepare to search for winged mapleleaf aggregation lines on the St. Croix River. Not pictured is diver Allie Holdhusen (NPS). - Photo Credit: Tamara Smith (USFWS)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service partnered with the National Park Service and others to prepare for autumn searches for gravid females of federally endangered Winged mapleleaf (Quadrula fragosa) in the St. Croix River bordering Minnesota and Wisconsin. Winged mapleleaf was historically widespread in the central Unites States, with records from at least 41 rivers in 16 states. Today the species inhabits only six rivers (see the June 30, 2016 story that describes recent reintroductions,
"A Happy Accident Results in a Great Start for Winged Mapleleaf Recovery"); at least four of the six extant populations face significant threats or are of uncertain viability. Propagation and reintroduction of winged mapleleaf into habitats that it occupied historically will facilitate its recovery.

 

Winged mapleleaf occur in the north (i.e., St. Croix and Mississippi rivers in Minnesota and Wisconsin, Chippewa River in Wisconsin) and the south (i.e., Bourbeuse River in Missouri, Saline and Ouachita rivers in Arkansas, and the Little River in Oklahoma). Two parallel efforts to propagate winged mapleleaf are ongoing – one in the northern part of the species’ range that uses broodstock from the St. Croix River and one in the south that relies on the Saline River population in Arkansas for broodstock.

The Service and our partners have developed techniques to propagate winged mapleleaf, an effort that began about 15 years ago. These projects initially focused on identifying a suitable reproductive host (channel catfish, Ictalurus punctatus) and then refining techniques to facilitate efficient collection of brooding females, maximizing the likelihood of successful juvenile transformation, maintaining juveniles in situ (e.g., silos or cages in the river), and growing juveniles large enough for eventual release.

Using brooding females from one of the best populations of the species on the St. Croix River, the team began propagating winged mapleleaf at the Service’s Genoa National Fish Hatchery. This has now expanded to include a propagation facility operated by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Every fall, biologists look for gravid (essentially,pregnant) females along aggregation sites on the St. Croix River. On August 2nd, the interagency team searched for the old aggregation sites (lines), fixed the lines that were in disrepair, consolidated mussels to new or fixed lines, and looked for more winged mapleleaf to add to the lines. This preparation work will streamline our work in the fall, when interagency teams are searching for gravid female winged mapleleaf in the cooler fall days.


Contact Info: Tamara Smith, 612-725-3548 (x2219), tamara_smith@fws.gov
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