Greater Yellowstone grizzlies are inbred and Yellowstone Lake far below biological potential due to its infestation with lake trout-

The Associated Press reports that in a draft progress report to the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage Committee, Yellowstone Park is looking for a million dollars a year to rid Yellowstone Lake of lake trout. It also reports (though this was already common knowledge) that the grizzly bear population of the Park and adjacent area (the  “Greater Yellowstone”) is seriously inbred because the population is far isolated from grizzly bears to the north and has been for many years now. Even though the bear population has grown to about 600 (but now apparently stopped and perhaps begun to decline), the grizzly genetics can only go downhill without new grizzly bear genes from outside the area. This is expected to become a real problem by 2022.

The Park hopes migration corridors can be kept open to the north for bears to wander south to inhabit the Yellowstone area, intermingling with the existing bears. Unfortunately, and the AP story doesn’t tell this, but these northerly bear populations (such as Glacier N.P.) are also genetically improverished.  Perhaps a more effective plan would be to transplant bears from the far north in Canada to the Park, or if this proves too controversial, fertilize some Yellowstone grizzly sows with the semen of bears from the north.

As far as the lake trout go, despite a yearly effort that kills thousands of the big non-native trout, a much more aggressive effort is needed. This costs money, but the biological dividend would be huge because the beleaguered Yellowstone cutthroat trout that are being eaten by the lake trout are the prey for dozens of mammal and avian species as well as stream anglers upstream outside the the Park in Wyoming.  Lake trout provide no food for Park animals at all because they live deep down. Nothing eats them except a few human boat anglers. Meanwhile the lake trout wipe out (eat) the valuable Yellowstone cutthroat that live in and spawn in shallower waters.

Here is the AP story on which much of this commentary is based. Yellowstone says it may need to import grizzlies to improve genetics

About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan's Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of "Hiking Idaho." He also wrote "Beyond the Tetons" and "Backpacking Wyoming's Teton and Washakie Wilderness." He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

57 Responses to Yellowstone asks for dollars to rid Yellowstone Lake of lake trout and for support to improve Park grizzly genetics

  1. Sarah says:

    Maybe they should start not putting a limit on them
    Or you could put a bounty on them 1.00 a head
    Drag it with a net and toss the ones back that are needed

    • Ken Cole says:

      Sarah, there is no limit on lake trout in Yellowtone Lake, in fact, if you catch one it is illegal to put it back alive, it must be killed whether you want to keep it or not. The Park has also been netting lake trout at spawning areas deep in the lake for years but it costs money and, if you had read what Ralph wrote, you would see that it hasn’t had the desired effect.

      Also, when netting fish, you can’t really put the cutthroat back, they die in the nets before you could ever rescue them. It’s just not as simple as you make it out to be.

  2. Ken Cole says:

    Another behavior about lake trout that is different from cutthroat is that they can spawn deep in the lake while the cutthroat have to spawn in a stream where they are vulnerable to the animals that eat them.

  3. Jdubya says:

    Collecting grizz semen? Now that sounds like an exciting job. Where do I sign up?

  4. Salle says:


    There is no limit on lake trout in Yellowstone Lake. In fact, those who fish are encouraged to catch and remove as many lake trout as they can. There is at least one fisheries vessel that is out on the lake that sets and monitors nets all over the lake. One of the problems with this species is that they inhabit deep water, I have seen fish monitor readings of lake trout at more then 200ft below the surface, unless you have specialized fishing gear – like a cannon and heavy weights, and a boat, there is little opportunity to catch very many.

    And as Ken – a fish biologist himself – mentioned, spawning practices of the two species are quite different.

    There are few who actually go out on the lake due to the expense of boating, including fishing licenses and then hourly fishing boat fare for the Gardy-White fleet out there that brings the boat-less out to fish on the lake at a per-hour rate.

    Also, the “minesweeper” approach – drag a big net and throw back the ones you want to stay in the lake – is impractical for numerous reasons including: the overall size of the lake, the environmental damage to the lakebed vegetation and all other species that inhabit the lake area, the financial limitations of such an endeavor, the possibility that the treatment won’t solve the problem after such an invasive action that may well destroy the lake’s biodiversity the action sought to save.

    It’s a touchy thing that has no one “silver bullet” remedy to such a complex issue. Don’t know what the answer is. But I do know that we need to teach humans to stop trying to control and manipulate the natural world for our benefit and pleasure-seeking without regard to any other species needs – even the species we want to exploit until the end of time.

    • Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

      Sarah, Ken, Salle –
      Idaho has a near identical lake trout problem in Lake Pend Oreille, and is successfully collapsing the invasive population with commercial fishing technology from the Great Lakes. The IDFG, in collaboration with local organizations, has employed commercial Great Lakes fishermen, using deep water trap nets developed for the Great Lakes commercial fisheries – to intensely exploit key lake trout spawning areas of Lake Pend Oreille. The strategy is to replicate the same fishing methods that repeatedly and un-intentionally collapsed Great Lakes Region native lake trout populations – intentionally in our management challenge. Lake trout threaten native westslope cutthroat trout and native bull trout populations in the lake basin as well as very popular and valuable, introduced, kokanee salmon and gerard rainbow trout fisheries.

      • Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

        CC –
        There’s nothing unique about the physical challenges of Yellowstone Lake. Lake Pend Oreille is even larger, very deep and similar in thermal profile. The management challenge is no different for Yellowstone Lake than for LPO – both daunting but well within the capabilities of managment to collapse the lake trout population to relieve cutthroat trout stocks of the predation inertia imposed by lake trout. The history of Great Lakes lake trout fisheries demonstrated again and again that lake trout populations are very susceptible to intense fishing exploitation. This is not a silver bullet, but it is a feasible managment strategy to improve the long term outlook for native YCT and the trophic benefits they offer for grizzly bears and other species in the Yellowstone lake ecosystem.

  5. CodyCoyote says:

    I’m skeptical that due to Yellowstone Lake’s uniqueness in being a very large deep cold freshwater mountain lake that they will never manage the incursive Lake Trout population down to a level where the Cutts can regenerate in sizeable numbers. Too late. Too many unwanted Mack trout.

    The grizzly situation is much more manageable, and relocation of bears needs to be a 2-way street. Yes, other grizzlies need to be injected into the Yellowstone subspecie gene pool. Further, Yellowstone bears be transplanted to other areas of suitable habitat in the Rockies , all the way from Colorado’s San Juan mountains north along the Great Divide to B.C. .
    You need only look at the state of Wyoming’s ” Musical Bears” management of its grizzlies outside Yellowstone . The Wyo G&F bear wranglers continually move ‘ problem’ bears from here to there, from there to here in Wyoming The problem is they need to be able to trap the bears and relocate them to places that can be accessed by a 4WD truck and trailer. There seem to only be about 6 locations on either side of the Continental Divide in Wyoming where bears can be dropped off. Too few.

    Because Wyoming has a myopic bear management plan where bears are only allowed inside an artifical ” Zoo Zone” of the wilderness areas surrounding Yellowstone , for political and social reasons that fly in the face of the bears needs and availability of suitable habitat, the G&F has short shrifted its own options. Wyoming does not manage bears according to the bear’s needs…they are hee’d and haw’d according to the dubious perceptions of human decree. It’s not science or wildlife management. It’s probation and parole with electronic bracelets.

    Instead, Wyoming needs to expand the Primary Conservation Area to allow bears to repopulate former range in places like the southern Wind River Mountains, the Wyoming Range, the Uinta Mountains , even the Pryors or Big Horns. Further, Wyoming bears should be made available to be relocated to nearby habitat in Montana and Idaho.

    Yellowstone’s bears need to go forth and propagate. It’s not the National Zoo. Ditto the bears surrounding the Park.

    • Jeff says:

      I agree, start dropping 3-5 bears a year in the frank church and selway wildernesses over the next 10 years with both GYE bears and NW MT bears. Grizzlies lingered until 1979 in the San Juan mnts I’d like to see that happen, but central Idaho should be the priority.

      • Mike says:

        There’s probably a few grizz in the Selway already.

        Bummer about the Colorado grizz. David Peterson’s book “Ghost Grizzlies” (which covers grizzlies and the San Juans) was quite good. Of course it was a hunter that killed the last grizz. Sad, but that’s usually how the story ends for rare wildlife.

        • Kayla says:

          Now have heard several comments as for a few few Grizzlies remaining in the San Juans. But agree with Cody Coyote above on letting the Grizzly here in Wyoming expand its range. In fact do seriously think that we should bring back the Grizzly all over here in the west. Reintroduce them not only to the Frank Church and the Bitterroots but also to the Sierras in California, the Cascades in Washington and Oregon, the Black Hills in South Dakota, Colorado, the Gila in Southwest New Mexico. Then Yes bring down a few grizzlies from Northern Canada and Alaska to help with the inbredding problem. They did this for the Mountain Lions – Cougars that were surviving in the Everglades. They brought in a few cats from elsewhere and it really really helped with the gene pool.

        • Salle says:

          The one thing I see allot of people doing is, forgetting that for better or worse, the human species is part of this equation.

          Interesting. I see the human factor as being waaaay out of whack and in need of controlling and reducing its numbers. That would be the part of the equation that needs most attention. Any other species is endangered by us to a serious degree.

          • Nancy says:

            “Interesting. I see the human factor as being waaaay out of whack and in need of controlling and reducing its numbers. That would be the part of the equation that needs most attention. Any other species is endangered by us to a serious degree”

            Big Amen on that thought Salle.

        • Kayla says:

          Salle, Yes the Human Species is way out of whack. But just wait to the coming Economic Collapse or WWIII or some biological plague or such and then we Stupid Species – Us Human Two Leggeds will be the Endangered Species.
          And I think this whatever is coming really soon also. And if don’t think this is coming, then look at our Human History with what is going on in the world today. yes us Human the Stupid Species! Just my opinion of course.

        • Savebears says:

          Well Salle, you and I see most things very differently as well.

        • Kayla says:

          Also to add Salle, do seriously disagree with you that we need to be controlled, Who will be the Controllers? And Salle, what about our Constitutional Rights and Freedoms? Guess you don’t beieve in such from what you said.

          And as for the coming collapse, do think this is coming really soon bigtime! And afterwards we Human Two Leggeds (the few eventually that is left) will go back to that old Hunter-Gatherer Lifestyle. Now I don’t know about WWIII but WWIV will be fought with sticks and stones.

          Just My opinion!

          • Salle says:


            I don’t doubt that some kind of planet-wide biological “correction” is soon to come if we humans don’t figure out some solid solutions and actuate them soon… though I honestly feel it’s already too late for the vast majority of our population at this time.

            My argument, though not meant to dictate what should or could happen, is that because we have our collective heads in the sand, especially in the higher levels of of the capitalism activated parts of human societies, the natural world will rid itself of the majority of humans at some point… perhaps really soon without regard to what we want or think or try to manipulate.

            As a species we have exceeded our carrying capacity and the correction will be what eventually controls our species. Since we have no desire to control our actions in accordance with the natural carrying capacity for our species, or via personal choice (for instance), something will surely do it for us. I was not advocating some government agency or social gang of “monitors” or what have you. I was thinking more along the lines of individual choices that bring about mass change, like stop thinking how nice it would be to make more babies so that someone will love us or carry our genes to a new generation – all of which I see as a crock of poo that religion brews.

            Until it is clearly obvious to everyone that our species is about to be wiped out by uninhabitable conditions based on our pollution and over-killing of other species, the greater portion of the human species will not change its ways or belief systems that helped get us there.

            Sure, if anyone survives whatever major shifts take place, they will likely have to resort to pre-industrialization methods of survival. Not necessarily a bad thing, especially for all the other species.

            And as I always say; It’s the biosphere, stupid.

          • Salle says:


            I don’t like to claim a “belief” in things, I prefer being encumbered by the thought process instead.

            Yes, the Constitution is a document that most of us adhere to for the sake of community and that affords and defines rights and limitations to denial of those rights for those who are citizens or visitors to the country. But it’s not my religion.

          • Mike says:

            ++Also to add Salle, do seriously disagree with you that we need to be controlled, Who will be the Controllers? ++

            That’s easy: us. By our own stupidity. Check out the Kardashev Scale:


            • WM says:


              And this would be relevant in what way?

              • Mike says:

                It’s entirely relevant.

                • WM says:

                  Again, how? On the other hand, if you can’t explain it…….how would that be useful or even relevant?

                • Salle says:

                  Let me guess… First, this relevant because it’s a theory, right?

                  Second, it’s relevant because it points out one very important criticism which is relevant here: “It has been argued that, because we cannot understand advanced civilizations, we cannot predict their behavior; thus, Kardashev’s visualization may not reflect what will actually occur for an advanced civilization.”

                  But we humans, especially western and industrialized, do need to get out of the “head up the butt” mindset and control ourselves first.

                • WM says:

                  My thoughts are more practical. We just need to get from 7 billion people down to about 5 billion in less than 2 generations – peacefully, and away from a mind set that consumption equals better quality of life.

                • Salle says:

                  Still requires a cultural shift that isn’t likely until it is the only option.

      • Ralph Maughan says:

        I’d like to see that (relocating grizzly bears to the Frank Church/Selway-Bitterroot), but even so the bears from GYE dropped into the Frank Church or wherever will suffer from the poor genetics, In fact, it will be worse because you will have taken a sample of an already depleted genetic population.

        I think there is going to have to be some artificial insemination from or introduction of grizzlies quite distant from Yellowstone or Glacier.

        • CodyCoyote says:

          Ralph- I didn’t mention the other reason why I hope Yellowstone Park grizzlies should be used as transplant seedstock as they grown in numbers, and the Park recieve other genetically disseminate bears in exchange, where practicable.

          Doing so would provide an ” incentive” for the state of Wyoming to do the same , and make its grizzly management plan more equitable to the bear’s needs instead of human constraints.

          Wyoming’s bear management policy is frozen to some questionable parameters that to my mind go against the intentions of the ESA .

  6. Salle says:

    Time to accelerate the Y to Y initiative, eh?

    • Savebears says:

      Y2Y, man I have not read allot about that lately, I am in favor of some of it, and some of it I am against, but on the whole, I think it could be a major game changer..

      • Salle says:

        I think it may end up being the only game that is viable. The big bugaboo is the usual “I’m not giving up my activities for…” crowd who see themselves as some kind of exception to the community efforts needed to save our own hides from our destructive ways. (Miopia is often a symptom of “head up the butt syndrome”.)

    • Peter Kiermeir says:

      Does YtoY make any progress at all?

  7. Kayla says:

    Now one thing that Wyoming seriously needs to do as for the Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout is make the entire drainage of the Upper Yellowstone and Thorofare Rivers to catch and release only. In the Teton Wilderness where many of the Cutthroats go up river to spawn, one can still catch and keep two Cutthroats per day. They need to make all of that Upper Yellowstone River Drainage (outside the Park) to Catch and Release Only!!! I know that the Outfitters would cry bloody murder but so be it … we need to help the cutthroat. Also some years ago I did talk with a Wyoming G&F person back in that country and he said that they were gonna do this. But of course it was NEVER done!

    • CodyCoyote says:

      Kayla- Wyoming actually has a strident program to use watersheds outside Yellowstone to be restocked with Yellowstone Cutthroat trout. This is a hedge against the sharply falling YNP cutthroat population in any stream that runs to/from Yellowstone Lake.

      Starting two summers ago, Wyo G&F fishery biologists removed ALL trout from the headwaters of the extensive Dead Indian Creek drainage , and this past summer restocked it with Yellowstone cutts. They are also doing this in other drainages in scattered locations.

      • Kayla says:

        Cody Coyote, Now I had not heard of this. This sounds Great! Thanks for posting this and letting me know on this.

  8. Kayla says:

    Now I said this above but will post it again. Do seriously believe that the Grizzly should be brought back all over the west. Not only should the grizzly be allowed to expand out over Wyoming again like to the Wind rivers, the Wyoming and Salt Ranges, down to the Uintas, etc. But also not only reintroducing them to the Bitterroots and the Frank Church Country, but also to the Sierras in California, to all of the Cascades, back to Colorado, to the Gila in NM, to the Black Hills in South Dakota, etc.

    Then do seriously think we should bring down a few Grizzlies from Northern Canada and Alaska to help with the inbreeding. They did this to the Cougars in the Everglades with bringing in a few cats from elsewhere in which it seriously helped the species in the Everglades.

    • WM says:


      I understand from your past posts you have been very successful in avoiding bad encouners with grizzlies, partly because of your wilderness skills, and maybe a little luck.

      Are you prepared to accept that with an increased number grizzlies the number of encounters between human and bear will result in death/injury to more humans and death for certain to the bear(s) involved?

  9. I occasionally see grizzlies along the roads near Hinton, Alberta, where the Yellowstone and Idaho wolves were trapped. Enlist those same trappers to snare a few grizzlies each year and give them a quick ride to Yellowstone and the Frank Church. (I can already hear the Ron Gilette/Butch Otter crowd ranting about 2,000 lb. “Canadian Grizzlies” about to kill everyone in Idaho’s backcountry.)

    • Ralph Maughan says:


      If you recall our undistinguished, but gubernatorial looking, ex-governor Dirk Kempthorne, he killed the ready-to-go restoration of grizzly bears to central Idaho, and much like his behavior after the 9-11 attack, he seemed almost personally afraid — in this case that he’d be eaten and desposited as scat along some obscure trailside.

  10. Savebears says:


    I am curious, over the last couple of weeks, there seems to be messages disappearing in the threads, I posted something to Mike about his continued hate hunter messages and it is now gone. For the most part as time goes by, this blog has been pretty good at letting many messages by both sides of the issue to be posted, but as of late, it seems as if it has ventured into the land of dictatorship? Now this may be my misunderstanding, but as I said, I am just curious?

  11. Leslie says:

    Yes, YtoY is essential and I think the answer to a lot of problems–Canines, Cores, Corridors! Great idea but I have never seen much done with it except a few under- and overpasses.
    One question re:lake trout I don’t understand. YNP has been employing professional fishermen to improve getting very large catches of Lake Trout. Good idea and I was told there is no market for their catch, yet I still don’t understand why. Couldn’t their catch cash flow a little to help put a dent in this expensive endeavor. Lake Trout is served in restaurants all over the east. Why not here? Does anyone know the answer to this?

    • Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

      Leslie –
      I could be behind on the YNP lake trout control program for Yellowstone Lake, but to my knowledge, they have not yet used the same techniques used by the IDFG on Lake Pend Oreille, i.e. commercial fishing gear operated by commercial fishermen under contract.

      • CodyCoyote says:

        Mark- the Yellowstone Lake Trout eradication program is contracted out to a Wisconsin commercial service who does the gill netting work , usually with a YNP biologist or Ranger on the boat at least some of the time. They are the first boats on Yellowstone Lake in the Spring, and the last off the lake in the fall. It is a private-public partnership. I have no idea where those thousands of culled fish end up. You hear odd stories on their disposal, but nothing know to be fact.

        Management of recreation on Yellowstone Lake has several private-public partnerships, such as Xanterra Resorts hiring professional divers to service the various floating docks at sites near the islands and key bays, and the Park Service using those same divers for other chores and research dives.

        • Salle says:

          I know that in 2010 there was a newer fisheries boat out on the lake, pretty large trawler – I think they call them. There were considerably larger areas of the lake with netting last summer than I ever saw before. Also, in the late summer, when the water level drops, you can see many dead lake trout on the bottom in areas around the docks on the islands and I have seen the workers on the fisheries boat(s) throwing dead fish over the rail, many are snatched up by the pelicans and gulls immediately. The birds are kind of habituated to the trawlers. I was on a private boat, this has happened several times, a small trawler and was followed by pelicans who were probably thinking we would be tossing fish over the side at any time. In late summer, you can see lots of dead lake trout in the shallows. I wonder how many are taken out for human food by individual fishing enthusiasts compared to the number I saw in the shallows.

          It seems that the fisheries boats, those who actually do the netting program work, would likely be overwhelmed if they had to preserve these fish for retail/commercial use after being extracted from the lake. Cost benefit analyses might flesh that factor out of the mix. And the fact that there seems to be a lack of personnel – I always see openings for fisheries personnel in the USA jobs listings for the park.

    • SEAK Mossback says:

      I believe they are using sunken gillnet gear from a Great Lakes style gillnetter, regular commercial gear — I had assumed it was operated by NPS because of the logo on it. I have wondered the same thing about marketing them. There would be some expense in trucking them to West Yellowstone and other markets, unless they could be put on vehicles heading in different directions anyway, but fresh fish is pretty expensive now and would beat farmed rainbow trout fed pellets for visitors who order trout at Lake Lodge or surrounding restaruants. I suppose it could come down to Park philosophy about removing nutrients from the system or something, or giving any value to the exotic they are trying to control.

      • Leslie says:

        Seak, Yes they are using gillnet gear, but as I went to the GYC annual meeting where they had a presentation on this they are apparently hiring commercial fisherman to do this task. Probably because they have the experience. I think you are right about Park philosophy, but still, since it is our tax dollars, the project is so expensive and yet necessary, selling these fish seems prudent. I think someone said at the presentation also that it had to do with supply and demand.

  12. Mike says:

    There were comments made about human overpopulation and reaching certain levels of advancement. The Kardashev scale and the expansion of it by the likes of Dr. Kaku are relevant in this context.

    There are steps the human race has to take to advance to the next level (to avoid annihilation). We are currently at Level 0. Learning to harness the planet’s energy in non-destructive ways and maintaining species diversity play a large role in advancing to Level 1.

  13. Immer Treue says:

    Although the GL Lake Trout population was over fished in the 1940’s, the culprit that almost erased the Lake Trout were sea lamprey.…nu=research_invasive_fish

    And I’m sure as effective as the lamprey were, you don’t want them out west.

    • Salle says:

      There have been idiots, in past years, who brought Walleye and planted them in waters in the region. This sort of amateur fish relocation has devastated several native fish populations and now the Walleye are hard to eradicate. Same natural resources problem as many we have in the west and elsewhere, people re-jiggering and re-figuring so they can “have it all” when and where they want it not thinking about what was already in the place and the impacts of their actions upon a larger scale than they have the capacity to acknowledge.

      Idiots have been doing this for a while now.

  14. Theo says:

    “It also reports (though this was already common knowledge) that the grizzly bear population of the Park and adjacent area (the ”Greater Yellowstone”) is seriously inbred because the population is far isolated from grizzly bears to the north and has been for many years now.”

    Does anyone have any documentation or citations to support this – not the fact that the bears are inbred but that they are suffering genetic impoverishment as a result of that inbreeding?

    • SEAK Mossback says:


      I assume the concern is based mainly around this recent study:

      However, it does not point to current problems, only genetic isolation from other populations that could potentially lead to problems down the line.

      There are certainly functional populations with far fewer animals. I one drainage where I do some fisheries work, the very dense but naturally geographically isolated (by ice fields, rock and water) and genetically distinct population of brown bears is only estimated around 75 animals with indications from two of them that genes made it there from Admiralty Island sometime in the past (but no indication of exchange with other mainland populations). Those bears come in all colors from pure white to quite dark (often a sign of inbreeding) and include some exceptionally large individuals. Apparently one male of unremarkable size has been implicated in a disproportionate amount of the breeding, which makes me wonder if there could potentially be fertility problems in some of the males.

      There is an attempt to keep a population of about 20 brown bears in the Pyrenees Mountains viable by regularly bringing in bears from Slovenia.

  15. Peter Kiermeir says:

    Soooo, the Yellowstone Grizzly need a little genetical refreshment! This should be no problem at all. What I learnt on this blog is that collecting money for wildlife restoration and conservation purposes is not a big issue, because the hunters pay all these taxes that go into protection and preservation and restoration of wildlife! Whereas we, the wildlife watchers, pay nothing for just gawking. So come on hunters, go and buy us a few young and healthy grizzly boys for next christmas. (Save it, my wife already noted that I grew even more cynical in the new year.)

  16. Bruce Farling says:

    Regarding YNP and the lake trout suppression program: For the last two seasons, Yellowstone National Park has been employing Park Service employees AND commercial fishermen from Wisconsin in order to reduce lake trout numbers at Yellowstone Park. The commercial guys are the same folks that Idaho Fish and Wildlife has been using at Pend Oreille (and, the same guys Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks are using for an experimental lake trout removal program at Swan Lake, a bull trout stronghold). The commercial guys are very efficient at what they do. The public and private effort combines gillnets with trap nets, and will soon be informed by an expanding radio telemetry research project that could increase the efficiency of the program. The netting program has three thrusts: in the summer, netting targets fish of all sizes to reduce overall numbers; in the fall, spawning fish are targeted in order to reduce recruitment; and in the summer another effort collects fish to help determine the demographic trend of the population, which informs how effective netting is. This year more than 220,000 fish were netted. If it was economically possible to utilize the captured lake trout it would be occurring. However, the logistics, costs and remoteness of Yellowstone from potential markets makes commercial utilization of the lake trout pretty impossible. Instead, swim bladders are punctured on captured fish and they are sunk in the lake, theoretically at least replacing the biomass once represented by what was once the largest cutthroat population in the world. An objective scientific panel comprised of fishery professionals and researchers periodically reviews the park’s efforts and has made recommendations on how to improve the effort. Advanced population models are being crafted so that the Park Service and its partners in this effort know what they have to shoot for: ideally, a mortality rate that will effectively reduce predation and competition to a level that will produce a corresponding increase in cutthroats. In the long-term, once a desired reduction occurs in the lake trout population, its rebound will have to be prevented by a less costly maintenance-style removal program, either using gillnets and/or traps, or an advanced technology that, say, interferes with spawning success (such as the strategic application of electricity to eggs.). Though the whole project is complicated and expensive, the alternative is to give up on a cutthroat population once renowned world-wide among wildlife watchers and anglers, and which has been an important part of the Yellowstone-region food web. Thankfully, the Park Service understands this and the current superintendent is very supportive of lake trout suppression. The Yellowstone cutthroat subspecies has been severely reduced across its historical range. In an era of a warming climate, the most important populations to conserve will be those at higher elevations, which will be most buffered from climate change. That would be the once robust, world-famous population anchored to Yellowstone Lake.

    • Ralph Maughan says:

      Bruce Farling,

      Thank you for taking the time to give us your professional update on the lake trout elimination program at Yellowstone Lake.

      I wish you great success!

    • Kayla says:

      Bruce, Thanks a Bunch for your comment and what
      you have to share. Wishing You the Best!


January 2012


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey