Factors affecting the occurrence of saugers Sander canadensis were studied throughout the Wind River basin, a high-elevation watershed (> 1,440 m above mean sea level) on the western periphery of the species' natural distribution in central Wyoming. Adult saugers appeared to have a contiguous distribution over 170 km of streams among four rivers in the watershed. The upstream boundaries of sauger distribution were influenced by summer water temperatures and channel slopes in two rivers and by water diversion dams that created barriers to upstream movement in the other two rivers. Models that included summer water temperature, maximum water depth, habitat type (pool or run), dominant substrate, and alkalinity accounted for the variation in sauger occurrence across the watershed within the areas of sauger distribution. Water temperature was the most important basin-scale habitat feature associated with sauger occurrence, and maximum depth was the most important site-specific habitat feature. Saugers were found in a larger proportion of pools than runs in all segments of the watershed and occurred almost exclusively in pools in upstream segments of the watershed. Suitable summer water temperatures and deep, low-velocity habitat were available to support saugers over a large portion of the Wind River watershed. Future management of saugers in the Wind River watershed, as well as in other small river systems within the species' native range, should involve (1) preserving natural fluvial processes to maintain the summer water temperatures and physical habitat features needed by saugers and (2) assuring that barriers to movement do not reduce upstream boundaries of populations.
Additional publication details
Factors affecting the occurrence of saugers in small, high-elevation rivers near the western edge of the species' natural distribution