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Contact information
For information on Wisconsin's rare vertebrate animals, contact:
Rich Staffen
Conservation Biologist
For information on Wisconsin's rare invertebrates, contact:
Jay Watson
Conservation Biologist

River Redhorse (Moxostoma carinatum)



River Redhorse (Moxostoma carinatum), listed as Threatened in Wisconsin, prefers moderate to swift currents in large rivers systems, including impoundments and pools. River bottoms of clean gravel are preferred. Spawning occurs from mid-May through June when water temperatures reach 68 to 74 degrees Fahrenheit.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - both state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for River Redhorse (Moxostoma carinatum). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where occurrences of this species meet NHI data standards and is not meant as a comprehensive map of all observations.

Note: Species recently added to the NHI Working List may temporarily have blank occurrence maps.

Documented locations of Moxostoma carinatum in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.
Summary Information
State StatusTHR
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS2
Global RankG4
Tracked by NHIY

Species guidance

Note: a species guidance document is not available at this time. Information below was compiled from publication ER-091.

Identification: Red fins and thick fleshy lips distinguish river redhorse from other members of the sucker family. Moderately stout, round body. Bronze olive back, sides and belly yellowish or bronze. Head has a squared snout. Has molar-like throat teeth. Adult size: 12 inches (30cm).

Habitat: Prefer moderate to swift waters of large rivers, lower portions of their main tributaries, reservoirs and pools over clean gravel and rubble. Seldom found in deep water with mud, silt, or sand bottom.

State Distribution: Mississippi, Rock, lower St. Croix, Sugar, Wisconsin, Black, Chippewa and the Yellow Rivers. A map outlining Pre-1977 and 1997 to Present Distribution is available.

Phenology: Spawn during late March or early June. Females lay from 6000-23,000 eggs on nests in gravel which hatch in three or four days. They may make upriver spawning migrations.

Diet: River redhouse eat mollusks, larval ephemeroptera, chironomids and trichoptera. Their molar-like throat teeth are specialized for eating mollusks.

Management Guidelines: This redhorse species is quickly restored to waters from which they have been eliminated if there is a reservoir population nearby. Both the river redhorse and mollusks on which they feed are intolerant to siltation and turbidity.



River Redhorse

Side view adult.

Photo by John Lyons, WDNR.

River Redhorse

Side view of a breeder: Breeders develop tubercles on their anal and tail fins.

Photo by John Lyons, WDNR.

River Redhorse

Side view adult.

Photo by John Lyons, WDNR.

River Redhorse

Alternative view of head.

Photo by John Lyons, WDNR.

Wildlife Action Plan

Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan graphic

Natural community (habitat) associations

The table below lists the natural communities that are associated with River Redhorse. Only natural communities for which River Redhorse is "high" (score=3) or "moderate" (score=2) associated are shown. See the key to association scores for complete definitions. Please see the Wildlife Action Plan to learn how this information was developed.

Natural community Score
Warmwater rivers 3

Ecological landscape associations

The table below lists the ecological landscape association scores for River Redhorse. The scores correspond to the map (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None). For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

This map shows the probability of River Redhorse occurring in each of Wisconsin's Ecological Landscapes.  Actual scores can be found in the table to the left.

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Landscape-Community combinations of highest ecological priority*

Ecological priorities are the combinations of natural communities and ecological landscapes that provide Wisconsin's best opportunities to conserve important habitats for a given Species of Greatest Conservation Need. The 10 highest scoring combinations are considered ecological priorities and are listed below. More than 10 combinations are listed if multiple combinations tied for 10th place. For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

* Ecological priority score is a relative measure that is not meant for comparison between species. This score does not consider socio-economical factors that may dictate protection and/or management priorities differently than those determined solely by ecological analysis. Further, a low ecological priority score does not imply that management or preservation should not occur on a site if there are important reasons for doing so locally.

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Issues/threats and conservation actions

Conservation actions respond to issues or threats, which adversely affect species of greatest conservation need (SGCN) or their habitats. Besides actions such as restoring wetlands or planting resilient tree species in northern communities, research, surveys and monitoring are also among conservation actions described in the WWAP because lack of information can threaten our ability to successfully preserve and care for natural resources.

Threats/issues and conservations actions for rare animals

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Last revised: Thursday, December 22, 2022