Mountain whitefish

Mountain whitefish are one of 11 native species in Yellowstone National Park.

State wildlife officials found hundreds of dead whitefish in the Yellowstone River above Livingston on Friday, confirming reports of a large-scale fish kill.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks said in a news release that staff found 382 dead whitefish on the east bank of the river during a float from the Loch Leven Fishing Access Site to Pine Creek Fishing Access Site.

“We consider this to be a significant event,” FWP regional supervisor Sam Sheppard said in the release. “Whitefish play an important role in the ecosystem and can be an indicator of overall river health.”

A cause is unknown at this time. The release said that the agency staff on the float collected samples that a fish and disease health lab will analyze.

The fish found were of all age classes. Two crews will head back to the river on Saturday to look for more fish and to collect more samples.

FWP spokeswoman Andrea Jones said that whitefish “can be an early indicator of issues” with river health.

Several outfitters and guides reported the fish kill to FWP on Thursday. That prompted the agency to send staff to the river.

The agency said in the release that they encourage people to continue reporting dead fish found in the Yellowstone.

Michael Wright can be reached at mwright@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2638. Follow him on Twitter @mj_wright1.

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