Idaho Trying To Balance Pelicans, Trout

Jul 30, 2019

As pelican populations have grown in Idaho, the birds have taken a toll on local cutthroat trout populations. Idaho wildlife officials are trying to strike a balance with a long-term management program.
Credit Lenny Ignelzi / AP

Cutthroat trout face a lot of threats in Idaho, chief among them invasive fish and habitat loss. Wildlife officials say white pelicans are also putting a dent in some trout populations.

Pelicans are associated more with the ocean than the high desert. But thousands of the pre-historic-looking birds spend their summers around Idaho lakes and rivers. In some spots, increasing squadrons of pelicans — yes, that’s what they’re called — are scooping up native cutthroat trout, an iconic species for Western anglers.


An ongoing Idaho Department of Fish and Game management program includes harassing pelicans to keep them away from certain sensitive areas and, in some cases, killing them to control numbers.


“They’re really good fisherman and they can exact quite an effect on a population,” says Toby Boudreau, chief of Fish and Game’s wildlife bureau. “Cutthroat trout is not a listed species but there are places where cutthroat trout are struggling and we’re trying to help them out in every way possible.”


Even though they’re not endangered, some prime cutthroat trout waters are struggling due to pelican predation. The Blackfoot River and reservoir in eastern Idaho have been hit particularly hard.


With plenty of summer left, wildlife officials will be busy trying to find a balance between birds and fish.


Follow Heath Druzin on Twitter @HDruzin


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