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Rare Fishes of Eastern South Dakota

Welcome to the field guide to rare fishes of eastern South Dakota. There are 16 rare fishes that can be found in eastern South Dakota. Here you will find information on how to identify the fish, where and how they live, why there is cause for concern, and what to do if you happen to find one.

Funding for this project was provided by the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks through the Natural Heritage Small Grants Program. All photographs were provided courtesy of Konrad Schmidt. The South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks publication "Fragile Legacy: Rare animals of South Dakota " written by Duane E. Ashton and Eileen M. Dowd was used for some of the text. Some text also used in this project was provided courtesy of The Natural History of Minnesota Fishes website written by Nicole Paulson & Jay T. Hatch in cooperation with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' Minn Aqua Aquatic Program.

A copy of "Fragile Legacy: Rare animals of South Dakota " can be ordered from the Game, Fish and Parks office in Pierre (see References ).

The South Dakota endangered species law was passed in 1977. This statute was designed to ensure the protection of species determined to be threatened or endangered within the state. Threatened and endangered species are also listed under the federal Endangered Species Act, and are the prime responsibility of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and may or may not coincide with those listed by the state.

The South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks is the lead agency responsible for the conservation of state listed rare, threatened and endangered species. Species are listed as threatened or endangered when the species' population numbers within the state are so low that its ability to survive within the state is imperiled. Species abundance may be low due to several factors, or a combination of factors, including: alteration, disruption or destruction of habitat, over-harvest, introduced exotic species, and limitations to the species range within the state.

Many of the fish species considered rare in eastern South Dakota are "naturally rare" because the state is on the edge of the species overall distribution and there may not be much habitat available throughout the state to support them.

This makes the species very vulnerable to changes to the limited amount of habitat contained within the state. A species whose range is limited within South Dakota can be abundant elsewhere outside of the state. Other species were once abundant within South Dakota but are now rare, often due to human activities that degrade the species' habitat. Of the sixteen fish species considered rare in eastern South Dakota, the Topeka shiner is the only one of these fish that is listed as federally endangered and protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The banded killifish is listed as state endangered, and the northern redbelly dace is listed as state threatened. The remaining thirteen rare fish in eastern South Dakota are listed to various ranks of rarity (see Status for a description of rarity ranks).

Species listed by the state as threatened or endangered are protected by the South Dakota endangered species law. Those listed as rare are not protected directly under the endangered species law, but are possible candidates for listing monitored by the state for a change in population status that may require the species to be protected by the law. Likewise, a species listed as threatened or endangered may be taken off the list if the species population status improves and is no longer considered as vulnerable. Thus the state monitors the population status of these rare fishes closely.

The Game, Fish and Parks Commission is required to review the list of species every two years. This review makes the list a dynamic one, with species added or deleted depending on their abundance or vulnerability. Recommended changes are published and circulated to interested parties within the state and in adjoining states. Thirty days are allowed for public comment. As with any commission action, public input is sought and considered during the biennial threatened and endangered species list review. Because of the dynamic nature of the state and federal endangered species listings, readers should not assume that this CD contains the most up-to-date state or federal designations. The current list of state listed species can be found at the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks website. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website contains information on federal listed species found in South Dakota.

An important related rare species protection effort is the South Dakota Natural Heritage Program, a cooperative project established by The Nature Conservancy and the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks. The Natural Heritage Program uses numerous information sources to document and monitor the rarity and potential threats to the continued survival of more than 400 plant and animal species, as well as a number of unique natural features and plant communities. Critical sites are identified for monitoring and protection, either through purchase of important sites or cooperation with private landowners and public land management agencies. The data system was developed by The Nature Conservancy and is now operated by an organization named Nature Serve. This data source enables the Game, Fish and Parks Department to formulate biological opinions on the environmental impacts of projects that may alter or destroy significant habitat. Intervention before species decline to the point of being listed as threatened or endangered is the goal of the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks through its Natural Heritage Program.