Mountain-Prairie Region

Pallid Sturgeon

(Scaphirhynchus albus)

Steve Krentz with a Pallid Sturgeon


Species Description:  The pallid sturgeon (Facts sheet) has a flattened, shovel-shaped snout, possesses a long and slender and completely armored caudal peduncle, and lacks a spiracle and belly scutes.  Pallid sturgeon are a bottom-oriented species.  The species can be long-lived (40 + years), with females reaching sexual maturity later than males.  Pallid sturgeon at the northern end of their range can obtain sizes much larger than pallid sturgeon at the southern end of their range. 

Location:  Pallid sturgeon are found only in portions of the Missouri and Mississippi River basins.  More specifically, the species is known to occur in:  the portion of the Missouri River in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota; the portion of the Mississippi River in Arkansas, Kentucky, Illinois (downstream from Melvin Price Locks and Dam), Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri (downstream from Melvin Price Locks and Dam), and Tennessee; the Platte River in Nebraska downstream of Elkhorn River confluence; the portion of the Kansas River downstream from Bowersock Dam in Kansas; the Yellowstone River in North Dakota and Montana downstream of the Bighorn River confluence; and the Atchafalaya River in Louisiana.  This is illustrated in the figure above.  There have also been rare or occasional observations in the lower Big Sioux River, South Dakota, the Grand River, Missouri, and the Mississippi River near Keokuk, Iowa.

Actions: On September 1, 2010, the Service Announced a Final Rule to Treat the Shovelnose Sturgeon As a Threatened Species

The Service has determined that it is necessary to treat the shovelnose sturgeon as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act due to its similarity of appearance to the endangered pallid sturgeon.

Under this determination, the shovelnose sturgeon will be considered a threatened species in the portions of its range where it commonly overlaps with the endangered pallid sturgeon.  Due to the similarity of appearance between the two sturgeon species, identification of the protected pallid sturgeon is difficult in the field, resulting in pallid sturgeon being mistakenly harvested as shovelnose sturgeon.  We believe this action will aid the conservation and recovery of pallid sturgeon.

The Service is also enacting a special rule that will prohibit the harvest of any shovelnose sturgeon or shovelnose–pallid sturgeon hybrids, and their roe associated with or related to a commercial fishing activity. The special rule will apply only to activities that relate to the harvest of shovelnose sturgeon and shovelnose-pallid sturgeon hybrids for commercial fishing purposes and is not expected to impact commercial fishing targeting non-sturgeon species, recreational or other non-commercial fishing activities.  The special rule would not prohibit the legal commercial harvest of shovelnose sturgeon outside the range where the shovelnose and pallid sturgeons commonly overlap. 


In 1990, we listed the pallid sturgeon as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (Act).  Threats identified in the listing package were habitat modification, small population size, limited natural reproduction, hybridization, pollution and contaminants, and commercial harvest. 

In 1993, we released the pallid sturgeon recovery plan.  The short-term recovery objective was to prevent species extinction by establishing three captive broodstock populations in separate hatcheries.  The long-term objective was to downlist and delist the species through protection, habitat restoration, and propagation activities by 2040.

In June 2007, the Service completed a 5-year review of the status of the Pallid Sturgeon.  This status review concluded no change in its listed status under the Act was necessary.


More information can be found on the Service's ECOS webpage

Last updated: September 1, 2010