Popular Yellowstone River closes after thousands of fish die

Most of those are mountain whitefish, but there have been reports of dead rainbow and Yellowstone cutthroat trout.

The Yellowstone River and all of its tributaries were closed Friday to fishing, boating and other activities between the towns of Gardiner and Laurel.

Test results from samples sent to the USA and Wildlife Service Fish Health Center in Bozeman show the catalyst for this fish kill to be Proliferative Kidney Disease - one of the most serious diseases to impact whitefish and trout. "We haven't seen something like this in Montana", Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokeswoman Andrea Jones said, according to the Associated Press (AP).

Along with closing the river, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks have banned any water-based recreation and ordered the closure of the Park.

Although crews are assessing the Yellowstone River and tributaries at this time, no dead/infected fish have turned up in Park boundaries. "The closure will also help limit the spread of the parasite to adjacent rivers through boats, tubes, waders and other human contact and minimize further mortality in all fish species".

The announcement came as the park prepares to hold a large celebration next week marking the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.

The closure of nearly 200 miles of the Yellowstone River and its tributaries flowing through Montana is being described as "unprecedented" by officials of the State's Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, reports Reuters. As well, department officials are scrambling to protect the remaining fish from injury or death. The report said that only a part of the river is closed off and this did not include the upstream river inside the park.

Similar incidents have occurred just twice in the state over the past 20 years but more recent outbreaks have occurred in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Gigone called the closure catastrophic but said he would not fight it.

"We have trips on the books through September", Fishing guide Dan Gigone, who owns the Sweetwater Fly Shop in Livingston, told the AP.

In addition, once anglers are done fishing at a site within Yellowstone National Park, they must remove all mud, sediment, vegetation and other debris from waders and boots before leaving that site and traveling to additional fishing locations within the park.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks Director Jeff Hagener said the agency had to balance economic consequences with the risk to the fishery, given that recreational activities disturb fish and exacerbate the effects of the disease.

The parasite responsible for the die-off is not native to the area.

Montana officials said that the deadly parasite is not native in Yellowstone River and this means that it could have gotten there via a contaminated boat, birds or from humans, Fox News noted.

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