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Climate Change Wrecking Montana Wildlife Tourism, Goodbye Trout

Climate Change Threatens Cutthroat Trout in Montana, and the Tourism they Generate
Climate Change Threatens Cutthroat Trout in Montana, and the Tourism they Generate

The world is in a delicate balance, at least before human-caused climate change started to muddle things up. Take, for example, the delicate balance of wildlife in Montana, which is known for what I could call wildlife tourism.

Of course, besides just looking at wildlife, there are plenty of chances in Montana to taste wildlife as well. Besides photographers, hunters and anglers also spend lots of time getting a taste of the wildlife in Montana. Properly managed, such a resource can serve for generations to come. Agencies, such as the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks, keep track of wildlife patterns, and climate change is causing even more problems for the local wildlife.

Having grown up in Upstate New York, that vast uninhabited wasteland between New York City and the Canadian border, waiting for the first day of trout season in the Spring was almost like waiting for a holiday. It was practically the only thing worth getting up early for, even before school. Thousands of anglers flock to Montana streams to fish for trout, mostly Cutthroat Trout, but they might soon find their catch lacking.

The cutthroat trout prefer cold water, while competing species, such as bass and imported rainbow trout, prefer warmer waters. With climate change reducing precipitation and reducing winter runoff, the waters that the cutthroat trout prefers are becoming warmer. Bass and rainbow trout are moving further upstream, following the warmer water. The rainbow trout is competing for food, new hybrid rainbow cutthroat offspring aren’t as strong, and bass is a new predator. All this could mean falling numbers of cutthroat trout. How will Montana react to the loss of its iconic cutthroat trout?

Image © Jonny Armstrong/USGS

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