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Rocky Mountain Sculpin - Cottus bondi

Native Species

Global Rank: GNR
State Rank: SNR

Agency Status
USFWS:
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BLM:


 

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General Description
The Rocky Mountian sculpin is a species that was previously known as the mottled sculpin (Cottus bairdi) in Montana, but recent genetic work has proven that the mottled sculpin doesn't exist this far east and the "mottled" sculpin in Montana is more closely related to the sculpins of Russia than to the eastern US. Cottus bondi has been described from British Columbia with similar relatives in Alberta and likely Idaho. This species is highly camouflaged with it's surroundings as it blends in with the rocks (see picture). The Rocky Mountain Sculpin is a native fish, widespread in Montana in mountain streams east and west of the Continental Divide.

Diagnostic Characteristics
The back and sides are slate to brown with mottling and dark blotches. They may have two or three dark saddles under the second dorsal fin. The underside is whitish. The first dorsal fin is fringed with orange or red on breeding males. Palatine teeth are present.

Species Range
Montana Range

Year-round
 


Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 974

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density

Recency

 

(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)



Habitat
They prefer riffle and run areas of fast to moderately-flowing streams that are clear and have cobble to gravelly benthic substrates.

Food Habits
Like all sculpins, this species is a benthic insectivore meaning it eats primarily aquatic insects. They occasionally eat small fish or trout eggs but this is not a large part of their diet. Their diet includes a variety of immature aquatic organisms, but midge and caddis larvae are by far the most important. A study in southwest Montana showed bottom-dwelling aquatic insects comprising 99.7% of the diet.

Ecology
The species serves as a forage fish for predators, often trout.

Reproductive Characteristics
They are sexually mature in 2 years. Spawning occurs in May-June. The eggs hatch in 20-30 days at 50-60 degrees F. A southwest Montana study showed spawning throughout the month of June.

References
  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
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    • Bailey, J.E. 1951. Life history and ecology of the freshwater sculpin Cottus bairdii punctulatus in southwestern Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 42 p.
    • Clothier, W.D. 1952. Fish loss and movement in irrigation diversions from the West Gallatin River, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 32 p.
    • Craig, V.E. 1952. A story of fish production as it applies to Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 92 p.
    • Endicott, C.L. 1996. Responses of riparian and stream ecosystems to varying timing and intensity of livestock grazing in central Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 115 p.
    • Gerald, J.W. 1965. Food habits of the Longnose Dace, Rhinichthys cataractae. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, Montana: Montana State University. 27 p.
    • Gilham, A.T. 2016. Relationship between intensity of livestock grazing and trout biomass in headwaters of east front rocky mountain streams, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 45 p.
    • Gillespie, D.M. 1966. Population studies of four species of mollusks in the Madison River, Yellowstone National Park. Ph.D. Dissertation. Bozeman, Montana: Montana State University. 43 p.
    • Heaton, J.R. 1966. The benthos and drift fauna of a riffle in the Madison River, Yellowstone National Park. Ph.D. Dissertation. Bozeman, Montana: Montana State University. 59 p.
    • Logan, S.M. 1961. Winter observations on trout and bottom organisms in Bridger Creek, southwestern Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 30 p.
    • Magee, J.P. 1993. A basin approach to characterizing spawning and fry rearing habitats for westslope cutthroat trout in a sediment-rich basin, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 89 p.
    • McCleave, J.D. 1963. Movement and population of the Mottled Sculpin (Cottus bairdi Girard) in a small Montana stream. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, Montana: Montana State University. 20 p.
    • Mogen, J.T. 1996. Status and biology of the spawning population of Red Rock Lakes Arctic grayling. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 90 p.
    • Nelson, F.A. 1976. The effects of metals on trout populations in the Upper Boulder River, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 60 p.
    • Novak, M.A. 1988. Impacts of a fire-flood event on physical and biological characteristics of a small mountain stream. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 98 p.
    • Pierce, B.E. 1963. Distribution of fish in a small mountain stream in relation to temperature. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 16 p.
    • Posewitz, J.A. 1961. Observations on the fish population of Willow Creek reservoir, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 29 p.
    • Reiland, E.W. 1997. Fish loss to irrigation canals and methods to reduce these losses on the West Gallatin River, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 170 p.
    • Ritter, T.J. 2015. Connectivity in a montane river basin: Salmonid use of a major tributary in the Smith River system. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 120 p.
    • Sando, S.K. 1981. The spawning and rearing habitats of rainbow trout and brown trout in two rivers Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 67 p.
    • Schrader, W.C. 1989. Trout mortality, movements, and habitat selection during the winter in South Willow Creek, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 89 p.
    • Sloat, M.R. 2001. Status of westslope cutthroat trout in the Madison River basin: the influence of dispersal barriers and stream temperature. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 118 p.
    • Stringer, A.L. 2018. Status of Northern Pearl Dace and chrosomid dace in prairie streams of Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 150 p.
    • Sundeen, D.R. 1968. Abundance and movement of young trout in a portion of the Madison River, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, Montana: Montana State University. 19 p.
    • Sylvester, R. and B. Marotz. 2006. Evaluation of the Biological Effects of the Northwest Power Conservation Council's Mainstem Amendment on the Fisheries Upstream and Downstream of Hungry Horse and Libby Dams, Montana. Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Annual Report prepared for U.S. Department of EnergyBonneville Power Administration. Bonneville Power Administration Project No. 2006-008-00 Contract No. 28350. 124 p.Contract No. 28350
    • Sylvester, R., A. Steed, J. Tohtz, and B. Marotz. 2008. Evaluation of the Biological Effects of the Northwest Power Conservation Council's Mainstem Amendment on the Fisheries Upstream and Downstream of Hungry Horse and Libby Dams, Montana. Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Annual Report prepared for U.S. Department of EnergyBonneville Power Administration. Bonneville Power Administration Project No. 2006-008-00 Contract No. 28350. 124 p.Contract No. 28350
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Citation for data on this website:
Rocky Mountain Sculpin — Cottus bondi.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from