The Wood River sculpin Cottus leiopomus is endemic to the Wood River Basin in central Idaho and is a nongame species of concern because of its limited distribution. However, status and genetic population structure, 2 factors often central to the conservation and management of species of concern, have not been assessed for this species. We used backpack electrofishers to survey streams that were small enough (i.e., <10 m wide) to collect quantitative distribution and abundance data for Wood River sculpin, and we used mitochondrial DNA control region sequencing to investigate the distribution of genetic variation across the species' range. Of the 102 study sites surveyed, 20 sites (20%) had Wood River sculpin present, including 50%, 15%, and 0% of the sites predicted a priori to contain, possibly contain, or not contain the sculpin, respectively. Native redband trout Oncorhynchus mykiss gairdneri were present at 21 study sites, including 18 of the 20 sites that contained Wood River sculpin. Sixty-one study sites (60%) were dry or had too little water to contain any fish. We estimated that a minimum of 1.36 million Wood River sculpin (≥20 mm total length) currently reside in the basin. The presence of Wood River sculpin was positively associated with stream width:depth ratio and percent cobble/boulder substrate and negatively associated with stream gradient. Mitochondrial DNA haplotype differences were observed between and within the 3 major river subbasins supporting sculpin, with the most striking differences observed between populations in the Camas Creek subbasin and the other 2 subbasins, among which no haplotypes were shared, suggesting relatively long-term isolation. Our results suggest that the Wood River sculpin remains relatively widespread and abundant within its endemic range, despite obvious changes in historical stream connectivity caused by irrigation diversions and other chronic habitat alterations.
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Vol. 68 • No. 4