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COSEWIC Assessment and Update Status Report on the Copper Redhorse in Canada

Distribution

Global Range

The copper redhorse is found nowhere in the world except Quebec (Figure 4). Since 1942, all specimens have been found in rivers in the St. Lawrence Plain (southwestern Quebec), namely in the Maskinongé, Mille Îles, Noire, Richelieu, and Yamaska rivers and in a few localized sites in the St. Lawrence River, namely the fast-flowing Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue and Vaudreuil channels, the Lavaltrie-Contrecoeur sector and Lake Saint-Pierre.


Figure 4: Global Distribution of Copper Redhorse

Figure 4: Global distribution of copper redhorse.

Very recently, the identification of a fossilized fragment of copper redhorse pharyngeal apparatus from Indiana confirmed that the species was present there during the Pleistocene, i.e., between 11000 and 1.8 million years ago (R.E. Jenkins, professor at Roanoke College, Virginia, pers. comm.).


Canadian Range

Despite numerous fish surveys conducted since its discovery, the copper redhorse has never been found in any other river (Figure 5, Table 1). Moreover, its range has been contracting over the past few decades. Its extent of occurrence and area of occupancy have declined significantly from roughly 6119 km2 and 555 km2, respectively, in the early 1940s to an estimated 2089 km2 and 69 km2, respectively, today. No specimens were captured during recent systematic sampling programs carried out in various sectors of the St. Lawrence River, including Lake Saint-Pierre (1995, 1997, 2002, 2003) and Lake Saint-Louis (1988 to 1990 and 1997) (Dumont 1996, Fournier et al. 1996, 1998ab, FAPAQ, unpubl. data). However, in 1942 four specimens were captured in the Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue and Vaudreuil channels at the head of Lake Saint-Louis (Ottawa River) by Legendre (1942) and one by Vladykov in Lake Saint-Pierre. Six others have been found in Lake Saint-Pierre, including two in 1944 (Cuerrier et al. 1946), one in 1947, as well as three in 1971 in its archipelago (Sorel and Berthier channels) (Massé and Mongeau 1974). No copper redhorse were reported in sampling programs carried out from 1997 to 1999 in the Ottawa River and some of its tributaries as part of a study on the river redhorse (Campbell 2001).

Rivière des Mille Îles likely supports a remnant population. Since the capture of twelve specimens in 1971 and 1973 (Mongeau and Massé 1976) in the entire river, only three other individuals have been collected there, including one at the head of the river (Grand Moulin rapids) in 1980 (Massé et al. 1981) and two in 1996 near the confluence with Rivière des Prairies, downstream from the dam near Île du Moulin at Terrebonne (FAPAQ, unpubl. data).

The copper redhorse was first surveyed in the Yamaska River by Vladykov in the 1940s. Parts of a specimen, captured by Vladykov on June 19, 1948, near Saint-Césaire, are currently in the Cornell University collection (CU 25512) (R.E. Jenkins, professor at Roanoke College, Virginia, pers. comm.). The species was subsequently found in abundance in the 1960s in the Yamaska (upstream of the Saint-Hyacinthe dam) and Noire rivers (Mongeau et al. 1986, 1992). At that time, these rivers ranked, respectively, second and third in terms of the number of specimens collected (Mongeau et al. 1986). Despite visits made to the sector from 1976 to 1978 (Buth 1978, Harvey 1979), in 1985 (Mongeau et al. 1986), in 1991 (La Violette 1996), in 1992 (Boulet et al. 1995) and in 1995 (La Violette 1999), the presence of the species was reported only once in 1992 in the Yamaska River (Boulet et al. 1995). Given the degradation of the habitats in these rivers, the populations there are most likely almost entirely extirpated.


Figure 5: Historical and Current Range of the Copper Redhorse

Figure 5: Historical and current range of the copper redhorse (Map by Chantal Côté, Société de la faune et des parcs du Québec).

Map by Chantal Côté, Société de la faune et des parcs du Québec.

 

Table 1 (St. Lawrence River System): Main Sampling Programs and Field Work in Southern Quebec Streams Since the 1960s and Records of Copper Redhorse in Each Stream
St. Lawrence River SystemRecord of captureSystematic or large-scale sampling/field work
firstlastYear1Reference
Lac des Deux-Montagnes--1964 to 1966Mongeau and Massé 1976
Lac des Deux-Montagnes--1975-1976Sloterdijk 1977
West of the Island of Montreal

Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue and Vaudreuil channels at the head of Lake Saint-Louis
194219451965 to 1968Mongeau and Massé 1976
West of the Island of Montreal

Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue and Vaudreuil channels at the head of Lake Saint-Louis
194219451975-1976Sloterdijk 1977
West of the Island of Montreal

Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue and Vaudreuil channels at the head of Lake Saint-Louis
194219451988 to 1990Dumont 1996
West of the Island of Montreal

Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue and Vaudreuil channels at the head of Lake Saint-Louis
194219451997Fournier et al. 1998b (RSI)2
Rivière des Mille Îles197119961971, 1973Mongeau and Massé 1976
Rivière des Mille Îles197119961975-1976Sloterdijk 1977
Rivière des Mille Îles197119961980Massé et al. 1981
Rivière des Mille Îles197119961996FAPAQ, unpubl. data
Rivière des Prairies--1971-1972Mongeau and Massé 1976
Rivière des Prairies--1975-1976Sloterdijk 1977
Rivière des Prairies--1982-1983Provost et al. 1982
Provost and Fortin 1984
Rivière des Prairies--1982 to 1985Dumont et al. 1987
Rivière des Prairies--1986 to 1988Gendron 1986, 1987, 1988
Rivière des Prairies--1995 to 1999Fortin et al. 2002 (hydroelectric generating station on the Rivière des Prairies)
South and east of the Island of Montreal

From the Mercier Bridge to Sorel
197320041973, 1977Mongeau and Massé 1976,
Massé and Mongeau 1976,
Mongeau et al. 1980
South and east of the Island of Montreal

From the Mercier Bridge to Sorel
197320041975-1976Sloterdijk 1977
South and east of the Island of Montreal

From the Mercier Bridge to Sorel
197320041991 to 1993Nilo 1996
South and east of the Island of Montreal

From the Mercier Bridge to Sorel
197320042001FAPAQ, unpubl. data (RSI)
South and east of the Island of Montreal

From the Mercier Bridge to Sorel
197320041998 to 2004Vachon and Chagnon 2004, FAPAQ, unpubl. data
Lake Saint-Pierre and its archipelago194419711971-1972Massé and Mongeau 1974
Lake Saint-Pierre and its archipelago194419711975-1976Sloterdijk 1977
Lake Saint-Pierre and its archipelago194419711995, 1997Fournier et al. 1996, 1998a
Lake Saint-Pierre and its archipelago194419712002-2003FAPAQ, unpubl. data (RSI)

 

Table 1 (Tributaries): Main Sampling Programs and Field Work in Southern Quebec Streams Since the 1960s and Records of Copper Redhorse in Each Stream
TributariesRecord of captureSystematic or large-scale sampling/field work
firstlastYear1Reference
Maskinongé197119711963 to 1974Mongeau et al. 1981
Yamaska194819921963-1975Mongeau 1979a
Yamaska194819921976 to 1978Buth 1978, Harvey 1979
Yamaska194819921985Mongeau et al. 1986
Yamaska194819921987FAPAQ, unpubl. Data
Noire196319641991La Violette 1996
Noire196319641992Boulet et al. 1995
Noire196319641995La Violette 1999
Richelieu196520031968 to 1970 and 1995Mongeau 1979b, Saint-Jacques 1998
Richelieu196520031984, 1985, 1990 to 1994, 1996, 1997Studies at Chambly, Saint-Ours and Saint-Marc-sur-Richelieu
Branchaud and Fortin 1998, Branchaud and Gendron 1993, Branchaud et al. 1993, 1995, Boulet et al. 1995, 1996, Dumont et al. 1997, La Haye et al. 1992, 1993, La Haye and Clermont 1997, Mongeau et al. 1986, 1992
Richelieu196520031997 to 1999, 2001Vachon 1999ab, 2002 (juveniles)
Richelieu196520032002 and 2003Monitoring of the fish ladder at Saint-Ours
Fleury and Desrochers 2003, 2004

1 Boldface characters indicate years in which systematic or large-scale sampling was conducted.

2 RSI: Réseau de suivi ichtyologique.

Since 1998, the presence of the copper redhorse in the Lavaltrie-Contrecoeur sector (St. Lawrence River) is once again being recorded every year during spring and autumn thanks to the collaboration of a commercial fisher (Vachon and Chagnon 2004, FAPAQ, unpubl. data) using hoop nets and gill nets. The last records of the species in this section of the St. Lawrence date back to 1973, when four specimens were captured between Verchères and Contrecœur (Massé and Mongeau 1976). It should be noted that, despite a fairly exhaustive coverage of the sector by fishing efforts carried out in the summer and fall at some 97 stations from 1991 to 1993 (Nilo 1996) and a systematic sampling of the Montreal-Sorel section in 2001 during a fish monitoring study (Réseau de suivi ichthyologique) (FAPAQ, unpubl. data), no copper redhorse were captured. Gear used to sample included beach seine and experimental gill nets. Although the discovery of this new group is extremely interesting and specimens showing obvious signs of reproductive activities were found, the presence of a spawning area in the sector could not be demonstrated (Vachon and Chagnon 2004).

At the present time, the only population for which reproduction is confirmed occurs in the Richelieu River. Since the capture of the first individuals there in 1965, the presence of the species is regularly recorded. The species was found at 30 stations distributed throughout the river from the Chambly Basin as far as the river mouth (Sorel) during a systematic sampling program carried out from 1968 to 1970 (Mongeau 1979b). In 1995, systematic sampling of the Richelieu River, although less intensive than the previous program, resulted in the capture of a single individual (Saint-Jacques 1998). However, numerous studies, conducted locally, have succeeded in capturing spawners and fry at Chambly and at Saint-Ours (Branchaud and Fortin 1998, Branchaud and Gendron 1993, Branchaud et al. 1993, 1995, Boulet et al. 1995, 1996, Dumont et al. 1997, La Haye et al. 1992, 1993, La Haye and Clermont 1997, Mongeau et al. 1986, 1992) and young-of-the-year, particularly in the Saint-Charles-sur-le-Richelieu sector (Boulet et al. 1995, 1996, Vachon 1999a, 1999b, 2002).