Dunn Ranch Host to Topeka Shiner Reintroduction
The Topeka shiner, a silvery three-inch fish with a prominent black stripe, was placed on the Endangered Species list in 1998 - and as part of ambitious efforts to restore grassland heritage, on Wednesday, November 6th, the species was reintroduced to the Dunn Ranch landscape.
Topeka shiners are released into a pond on Dunn Ranch. Photo © Jerry Wiechman/MDC
On November 6th, The Nature Conservancy, along with the Missouri Department of Conservation, reintroduced Topeka shiners at the Conservancy’s Dunn Ranch Prairie, in Harrison County, MO.
The Topeka shiners, silvery, three-inch fish with a prominent black stripe, are only found in healthy prairie headwater stream systems, a geographical feature once ranging from Minnesota to eastern Kansas. Loss of prairie habitat over the last 175 years has resulted in severe degradation of almost all of Missouri’s prairie headwater streams, leaving the Topeka shiner with less than 15% of its original habitat. Now classified as a federally endangered species, Topeka shiners are threatened by a number of factors, such as habitat destruction through sedimentation and changes in water quality.
As part of a partnership with the Missouri Department of Conservation and The Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed, in January, to establish a “non-essential, experimental” population of Topeka shiners in a number of counties in northern Missouri. Since then, Dunn Ranch staff have worked to prepare for the reintroduction. These preparations include identifying specific ponds on Dunn Ranch and Pawnee Prairie that could provide suitable habitat, and then making improvements to them, including adding gravel spawning beds to the selected ponds, removing predator fish species, and constructing stream riffle enhancements.
The “non-essential, experimental” designation gives more flexibility to wildlife managers in working with the Topeka shiners, while providing reassurance to nearby landowners that the presence of a protected species will not affect their activities. The reintroduction will not restrict any legal land-use activities, such as farming, grazing, forestry, and other general land management.
The reintroduction will stabilize and enhance Topeka shiner numbers in Missouri, which is a primary goal listed by the MDC in their State Recovery Plan for the fish species. If successful, it could potentially help the Topeka shiner be removed from the endangered species list.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org