OTTAWA RIVER – The Ottawa River boasts the largest known density of Hickorynut in Canada.
The Hickorynut lives on the sandy or silty bottom of deeper (approximately three to five meters) stretches of rivers with moderate to strong currents, and is most likely to be found in areas where its host fish, the Lake Sturgeon is present.
“Given their deep, river bottom habitat, locating populations of the Hickorynut in the Ottawa River has been a challenge,” the Ottawa Riverkeeper organization released in a statement.
While evidence of their presence has been reported as far as Lake Temiskaming in the form of weathered shells that have washed up on shore, the majority of observations have occurred in the stretch of the Ottawa River between Île aux Allumettes and McLaren’s Landing.
“Populations of Hickorynut have been identified by Canadian Museum of Nature mollusc expert Dr. André Martel and his team following underwater surveys in the Ottawa River near Mohr Island (Pontiac, QC) and most notably near the Finlay Islands (Waltham, QC), where the largest population density of mussels was observed,” the organization said. “Sadly, over the past few decades, we have seen a decline in Hickorynut populations throughout the country. So much so that on Aug. 16, 2019 the Hickorynut was officially listed as an endangered species in Canada.”
In an effort to protect this amazing species, the Ottawa Riverkeeper has partnered with the Canadian Museum of Nature researcher and freshwater mussel expert, Martel to learn more about the Hickorynut’s presence in the Ottawa River and to promote awareness in shoreline communities where its presence is known.
The Hickorynut has a long history in the Ottawa River.
The first recorded Hickorynut in the Ottawa River was discovered in 1885, in Green’s Creek, about 15 kilometres downstream of Parliament Hill.
“In September 2013, Martel and his team were investigating the freshwater mussel diversity near Mohr Island when they came across a Hickorynut,” the Ottawa Riverkeeper said. “This discovery saw them continuing their search for the Hickorynut in the Ottawa River.”
In September 2014 they began dives near the Finlay Islands, located in the Lac Coulonge stretch of the Ottawa River, “which we now know to be a Hickorynut hotspot.”
The summer of 2019 saw the return of Dr. Martel and his team to the Finlay Islands, this time accompanied by members of the Ottawa Riverkeeper team. Over the course of three dive days, Aug. 15 and 16, and Sept. 19, the team further documented the occurrence of the Hickorynut in Lac Coulonge where it was found to be the predominant mussel species, contributing to more than 50 per cent of mussel density.
For more information on the Ottawa Riverkeeper’s study on the Hickorynut click here.