We used radiotelemetry to assess spatial and temporal spawning distributions of native westslope cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii lewisi; WCT), introduced rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss; RBT), and their hybrids in the upper Flathead River system, Montana (USA) and British Columbia (Canada), from 2000 to 2007. Radio-tagged trout (N = 125) moved upriver towards spawning sites as flows increased during spring runoff and spawned in 29 tributaries. WCT migrated greater distances and spawned in headwater streams during peak flows and as flows declined, whereas RBT and RBT hybrids (backcrosses to RBT) spawned earlier during increasing flows and lower in the system. WCT hybrids (backcrosses to WCT) spawned intermediately in time and space to WCT and RBT and RBT hybrids. Both hybrid groups and RBT, however, spawned over time periods that produced temporal overlap with spawning WCT in most years. Our data indicate that hybridization is spreading via long-distance movements of individuals with high amounts of RBT admixture into WCT streams and stepping-stone invasion at small scales by later generation backcrosses. This study provides evidence that hybridization increases the likelihood of reproductive overlap in time and space, promoting extinction by introgression, and that the spread of hybridization is likely to continue if hybrid source populations are not reduced or eliminated.
Additional Publication Details
Spatial and temporal spawning dynamics of native westslope cutthroat trout, Oncorhynchus clarkii lewisi, introduced rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss, and their hybrids
Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences