Status and trends of adult Lost River (Deltistes luxatus) and shortnose (Chasmistes brevirostris) sucker populations in Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon, 2017

Open-File Report 2018-1064
Prepared in cooperation with the Bureau of Reclamation
By:

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Executive Summary

Data from a long-term capture-recapture program were used to assess the status and dynamics of populations of two long-lived, federally endangered catostomids in Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon. Lost River suckers (LRS; Deltistes luxatus) and shortnose suckers (SNS; Chasmistes brevirostris) have been captured and tagged with passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags during their spawning migrations in each year since 1995. In addition, beginning in 2005, individuals that had been previously PIT-tagged were re-encountered on remote underwater antennas deployed throughout sucker spawning areas. Captures and remote encounters during the spawning season in spring 2016 were incorporated into capture-recapture analyses of population dynamics.

Cormack-Jolly-Seber (CJS) open population capture-recapture models were used to estimate annual survival probabilities, and a reverse-time analog of the CJS model was used to estimate recruitment of new individuals into the spawning populations. In addition, data on the size composition of captured fish were examined to provide corroborating evidence of recruitment. Model estimates of survival and recruitment were used to derive estimates of changes in population size over time and to determine the status of the populations through 2015. Separate analyses were done for each species and also for each subpopulation of LRS. Shortnose suckers and one subpopulation of LRS migrate into tributary rivers to spawn, whereas the other LRS subpopulation spawns at groundwater upwelling areas along the eastern shoreline of the lake.

Capture-recapture analyses indicated that with a few exceptions, the survival of males and females in both Lost River sucker subpopulations was high (greater than 0.88) from 1999 to 2015. Survival was notably lower for males from the river in 2000, 2006, and 2012, and for the shoreline areas in 2002. From 2001 to 2015, the abundance of males in the lakeshore spawning subpopulation decreased by at least 64 percent and the abundance of females decreased by at least 56 percent. Capture-recapture models suggested that the abundance of both sexes in the river spawning subpopulation of LRS had increased substantially since 2006; increases were mostly due to large estimated recruitment events in 2006 and 2008. We know that the estimates in 2006 are substantially biased in favor of recruitment because of a sampling issue. We are skeptical of the magnitude of recruitment indicated by the 2008 estimates as well because (1) few small individuals that would indicate the presence of new recruits were captured in that year, and (2) recapture probabilities in recruitment models based on just physical recaptures of fish were lower than desired for robust inferences from capture-recapture models. If we assume instead that little or no recruitment occurred for this subpopulation, the abundance of both sexes in the river spawning subpopulation likely has decreased at rates similar to the rates for the lakeshore spawning subpopulation from 2002 to 2015.

Shortnose suckers experienced lower and more variable annual survival than either LRS subpopulation. Annual survival of both sexes was relatively low in 2003, 2004, 2010, and 2012. In addition, female survival was low in 1999 and 2000 while male survival was low in 2002. Survival estimate precision in early years of the study; however, are poor. Capture-recapture models and size composition data indicate that recruitment of new individuals into the SNS spawning population was trivial from 2001 to 2005. Models indicate that more than 10 percent of the population was new recruits in a number of more recent years. As a result, capture-recapture modeling suggests that the abundance of adult spawning SNS was relatively stable from 2006 to 2010. We are skeptical of the estimated recruitment in 2006 because of the known sampling issue. We also are skeptical of the estimated recruitment in other recent years because few small individuals that would indicate the presence of new recruits were captured in any of those years, and recapture probabilities in recruitment models were low. The best-case scenario for SNS, based on capture-recapture recruitment modeling, indicates that the abundance of males in the spawning population decreased by 78 percent and the abundance of females decreased by 77 percent from 2001 to 2015. Decreases in abundance for both sexes are likely greater than these estimates indicate.

Despite relatively high survival in most years, we conclude that both species have experienced substantial decreases in the abundance of spawning adults because losses from mortality have not been balanced by recruitment of new individuals. Although capture-recapture data indicate substantial recruitment of new individuals into the spawning populations for SNS and river spawning LRS in some years, size data do not corroborate these estimates. As a result, the status of the endangered sucker populations in Upper Klamath Lake remains distressed, especially for SNS. Our monitoring program provides a robust platform for estimating vital population parameters, evaluating the status of the populations, and assessing the effectiveness of conservation and recovery efforts.

Suggested Citation

Hewitt, D.A., Janney, E.C., Hayes, B.S., and Harris, A.C., 2018, Status and trends of adult Lost River (Deltistes luxatus) and shortnose (Chasmistes brevirostris) sucker populations in Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon, 2017: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2018-1064, 31 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/ofr20181064.

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Acknowledgments
  • References Cited

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Status and trends of adult Lost River (Deltistes luxatus) and shortnose (Chasmistes brevirostris) sucker populations in Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon, 2017
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2018-1064
DOI 10.3133/ofr20181064
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Western Fisheries Research Center
Description iv, 31 p.
Country United States
State Oregon
Other Geospatial Upper Klamath Lake
Online Only (Y/N) Y