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Montana Animal Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Torrent Sculpin - Cottus rhotheus

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Species of Concern

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S3

Agency Status
FWP Conservation Tier: 2

External Links

General Description
In Montana, the Torrent Sculpin is found only in the fast headwater streams of the Kootenai River drainage in the northwest portion of the state. As with all sculpins, it presents a somewhat grotesque appearance with its large head, huge pectoral fins, and bulging eyes. Sculpins have a very flattened hydrodynamic shape, which serves them well as they dart along the bottom between the cracks and crevices of rocks (Montana AFS Species Status Account).

Diagnostic Characteristics
This species is gray-brown with black speckling. The underside is light and the chin strongly mottled. The first dorsal fin is fringed with orange on spawning males. Palatine teeth are usually present. The body is robust. They usually have coarse prickles on the back, sides, and sometimes on the caudal peduncle.

General Distribution
Montana Range

Western Hemisphere Range


Summary of Observations Submitted for Montana
Number of Observations: 103

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Relative Density



(Records associated with a range of dates are excluded from time charts)

These fish are typically found in the riffles of cold, clear streams, but are also taken in lakes. They hide near stones on the bottom.

Food Habits
The fry eat mostly plankton. Adults feed mainly on aquatic insects and a variety of invertebrates, but also include plankton. Larger individuals often eat small fish.

Reproductive Characteristics
They are sexually mature in 2 years and spawn in late spring. The eggs hatch in 30 to 50 degrees F. The male remains close to the nest until after the eggs hatch.

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Citation for data on this website:
Torrent Sculpin — Cottus rhotheus.  Montana Field Guide.  Montana Natural Heritage Program and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.  Retrieved on April 16, 2014, from
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