Missouri River FWCO
Mountain-Prairie Region
Graphic button showing the 8 state mountain prairie region

Missouri River Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office

3425 Miriam Ave | Bismarck, ND 58501
Phone: (701) 355-8547 | Fax: (701) 355-8550 | Email: steven_krentz@fws.gov

About Our Office

Pallid Sturgeon Recovery | Pallid Sturgeon Profile | Refuge Fishery Activities | Pallid Sturgeon Resources | Area Map | Newsletters | Contact Us | Open / Close All

Aerial View of Maurer/Taylor Tract. Credit: USFWS.

Aerial View of Maurer/Taylor Tract. Credit: USFWS

The Missouri River Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) located in Bismarck, North Dakota, shares an office building with several programs of the USFWS, including, Ecological Services, Habitat and Population Evaluation Team, Realty, Office of Law Enforcement, and Partners for Fish and Wildlife. The FWCO was moved from Valley City to Bismarck in 1990 in response to the increased awareness of the declining populations of native fish in the Missouri River and its tributaries. Our station's objectives are to:

  • Conserve, manage, restore and enhance imperiled aquatic resources, focusing on the endangered pallid sturgeon.
  • Manage the recreational fisheries of National Wildlife Refuges and other Federal properties.
  • Provide technical assistance to tribal governments.
  • Communicate fish and wildlife resource needs and Fish and Wildlife Service activities to the public.

A coyote and a badger walking together on railroad tracks in a grass field

Angler on the Yellowstone River. View Full Screen.

A rattlesnake coiled in a dirt hole

Spirit Lake Nation staff assisting with assessments. View Full Screen.

a hawk perched on a branch looking down at the camera

Local kids helping with fish assessment. View Full Screen.

Pallid Sturgeon Recovery »

  • Shovelnose Sturgeon (l) - Pallid Sturgeon (r). Credit: USFWS
  • Ventral view of shovelnose sturgeon head. Credit: USFWS.

A significant portion of our work involves the endangered pallid sturgeon and native fish of the Missouri River system. This work is accomplished by working closely and cooperatively with numerous State, Federal, and private stakeholders on native fish and river issues, as well as collecting broodstock for spawning, planning for augmentation, research on life history, and habitat requirements, protection, and restoration of habitats.

Fishery Assistance
Duties include providing fisheries expertise and technical assistance to the National Wildlife Refuges and Native American Tribes in North Dakota. The FWCO works with Fish and Wildlife Service field offices, including Ecological Services and National Fish Hatcheries in the Dakotas, as well as several State and Federal agencies. We also extend assistance to other State and Federal agencies when objectives and priorities are aligned and mutually beneficial.

« Back to the top

Pallid Sturgeon Profile »

Pallid Sturgeon Species Profile – (Scaphirhynchus albus)

Official Status: Listed as endangered (55 Federal Register 36641) on September 6, 1990.

Juvenile Pallid Sturgeon in hatchery tank ready for stocking.

Juvenile Pallid Sturgeon in hatchery tank ready for stocking.

Description: Pallid sturgeons have a unique prehistoric appearance. They have a flattened snout, long slender tail, and are armored with five lengthwise rows of bony plates instead of scales. Their mouth is toothless and positioned under the snout for sucking small fishes and invertebrates from the river bottom. Pallid sturgeons can weigh up to 80 pounds and reach lengths of 6 feet, whereas the closely related shovelnose sturgeon rarely weights more than 8 pounds. The back and sides of pallid sturgeons are grayish-white versus the brown color of the shovelnose sturgeons.

Historic Range: Historically, pallid sturgeons were found in the Missouri River from Fort Benton, Montana, to St. Louis, Missouri; in the Mississippi River from St. Louis to the Gulf; in the Yellowstone River from Miles City, Montana, to the Missouri River, and in the lower reaches of other large tributaries such as the Yellowstone, Platte, Kansas, Ohio, Arkansas, Red, and Sunflower; and in the first 60 miles of the Atchafalaya River.

Current Range and Status: Today, pallid sturgeon populations are fragmented by mainstem dams on the Missouri River. The pallid sturgeon are scarce in the upper Missouri River above Ft. Peck Reservoir; in the Missouri and lower Yellowstone Rivers between Ft. Peck Dam and Lake Sakakawea; in the Missouri River downstream of Gavins Point Dam; and in the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers.

Habitat: Pallid sturgeons evolved and adapted to living close to the bottom of large rivers with high turbidity and a natural hydrograph. Their preferred habitat has a diversity of depths and velocities formed by braided channels, sand bars, islands, sand flats, and gravel bars.

Life History and Reproductive Biology: Sexual maturity for males is estimated to be 7-9 years with up to 3 years between spawns. Females are not expected to reach sexual maturity until 7-15 years, with up to 10-year intervals between spawning. Pallid sturgeons are long lived, with individuals perhaps reaching 60 years of age or more.

Reasons for Decline: The 3,350 miles of river habitat within the pallid sturgeon's range have been adversely affected by our attempts to tame the rivers. Approximately 28% has been impounded, which has created an unsuitable lake-like habitat and blocked migration routes; 51% has been channelized into deep, uniform channels; the remaining 21% is downstream of dams which have altered the river's hydrograph, temperature and turbidity. Hybridization with the more common shovelnose sturgeon is a threat to the species and may be attributed to the modifications occurring to the habitats used by both species. Commercial fishing and environmental contaminants may also have played a role in the pallid sturgeon's decline.

  • Drifting trammel nets for pallid sturgeon collection

    Drifting trammel nets for pallid sturgeon collection.

  • Electrofishing for fish samples

    Electrofishing for fish samples.

  • Paddlefish caught during pallid sturgeon sampling.

    Paddlefish caught during pallid sturgeon sampling.

Recent Recovery Activities:Population augmentation and propagation has been a focus of scientists since the mid 1990's when it was realized that recruitment of juvenile fish into the permanent population is not occurring at levels that will sustain the species. The current populations are composed of older fish that will die off in the near future. Since pallid sturgeons do not reach maturity until possibly 12 to 15 years of age, and spawning interval may be several years apart, we must stock now so that we have adults in the wild when habitats are restored. The juvenile pallid sturgeon we stock today will be the breeding population for future recovery efforts. However, habitat restoration will be essential to realize the recovery of this species. Habitat restoration, life history information, and threats to the species remain in the forefront of recovery issues.

Juvenile Pallid Sturgeon in hatchery tank ready for stocking.

Pit tagging pallid sturgeon.

What do you do if you catch a Pallid Sturgeon?

Reporting Information: Anglers are urged to report any sturgeon they catch or unintentionally snag. If you catch a pallid sturgeon, please call 1-888-203-9577 (toll free) and leave the following information:

  • Date caught or snagged
  • Location
  • Estimates of length and weight of the fish
  • General appearance of the fish
  • You can leave a name and telephone number so that we can get back in touch with you or you may remain anonymous if you prefer.
  • For more information, please see http://www.pallidsturgeon.org/

« Back to the top

Refuge Fishery Activities »

National Wildlife Refuges are managed and administered by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to protect fish and wildlife and their habitats for the enjoyment of the American people. The Missouri River Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office provides technical assistance on fishery and aquatic issues to the refuge system through surveys of the fish populations; fish stocking recommendations, activities to protect and enhance fish populations and their habitats; preservation efforts of for threatened, endangered, depleted, and native fish species and their habitats; effectively address invasive and non-native species issues; and provide knowledge of baseline fishery resources and requirements. The Missouri River Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office works with the individual refuges to provide technical assistance on aquatic issues for the management of the waters on National Wildlife Refuges and includes working closely with refuge personnel, State and local agencies and the public, to maintain a recreational fishery for the enjoyment and appreciation of anglers where applicable and compatible with refuge objectives.

« Back to the top

Pallid Sturgeon Resources »

Area Map »

« Back to the top

Newsletters »

Contact Us »

Project Leader: Steve Krentz
(701) 355-8547

Wade King
Fisheries Biologist

Ryan Wilson
Fish & Wildlife Biologist

Amanda Goldstein
Fish & Wildlife Biologist

Beth Davies
Fish & Wildlife Biologist

Tait Ronningen
Fish & Wildlife Biologist

Stephanie Hauge
Administrative Assistant (FAC/ES)

« Back to the top

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with Others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American People.
Last modified: May 06, 2021
All Images Credit to and Courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Unless Specified Otherwise.
flickr youtube