Use of hierarchical occupancy models to estimate the seasonal distribution and habitat use of stocked robust redhorse Moxostoma robustum in the upper reaches of the Ocmulgee River, Georgia
Pruitt, William Austin
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The robust redhorse Moxostoma robustum is an imperiled fish that inhabits large Atlantic slope rivers in Georgia and the Carolinas. To establish a refugial population, GA Power Company stocked robust redhorse in the upper Ocmulgee River, Georgia. I used occupancy modeling to estimate seasonal habitat use of the current population of stocked fish within the project site. Modeling results revealed robust redhorse have a conditional detection probability of 0.183(±0.128) and an occupancy rate of 0.033 (±0.046) throughout the project site. Further, the Upper Ocmulgee River population was found most frequently in areas with coarse substrates and high velocity year round. Although this habitat use pattern is different than that of the nearby Oconee River population, habitat characteristics differ between the two rivers. I conclude that robust redhorse were residing in shoals inaccessible to researchers or have left the headwaters entirely and reside in the Coastal Plain portion of the Ocmulgee.