Concealment of juvenile bull trout in response to temperature, light, and substrate: Implications for detection
Bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) are challenging to detect as a result of the species cryptic behavior and coloration, relatively low densities in complex habitats, and affinity for cold, high clarity, low conductivity waters. Bull trout are also closely associated with the stream bed, frequently conceal in substrate, and this concealment behavior is poorly understood. Consequently, population assessments are problematic and biologists and managers often lack quantitative information to
... ately describe bull trout distributions, estimate abundance, and assess status and trends; particularly for stream-dwelling populations. During controlled laboratory trials, we recorded concealment, resting, and swimming behavior of juvenile wild bull trout in response to: (1) constant and fluctuating water temperature, (2) presence or absence of light, and (3) substrate size. Light level had the strongest influence on wild fish concealment and more fish concealed as light levels increased from darkness to daylight. Wild fish were 14.5 times less likely to conceal in constant darkness and 4.1 times more likely to conceal in 12 h light x 12 h darkness compared to constant light. Wild fish were 6.2 times less likely to conceal in small (26-51 mm) substrate compared to larger (52-102 mm) substrate. As water temperature increased, fewer wild fish concealed. Knowledge of wild bull trout concealment will improve field sampling protocols and increase detection efficiencies. These data also enhance knowledge of bull trout niche requirements which illuminates ecological differences among species and informs conservation and restoration efforts.