Aquatic Species at Risk - Columbia Sculpin

Columbia Sculpin

Columbia Sculpin

SARA Status: Special Concern, Listed under SARA (2003) COSEWIC Status: Special Concern (2010)

Region: Southern British Columbia

Region: Southern British Columbia

Did You Know?

Columbia sculpin are most active at night, and can be difficult to observe in the day. Individuals do not move long distances; the species as a whole disperses slowly with reduced movement from stream to stream, resulting in genetic isolation of sub-populations.

Columbia sculpin reproduce in the spring from February to June, beginning at about two years of age. The males entice females with courtship displays and vocalizations. Females lay their egg clusters in nests built by males, or use existing cavities under rocks or other debris.


The Columbia sculpin is a tiny freshwater fish reaching a maximum of 10 to 11 cm in length that can be found in southern British Columbia and the adjacent United States. It is a typically shaped sculpin, with a large head and a heavy body that tapers down to become relatively narrow near the tail fin. It has dark mottling on the fins, tail and body and usually has 3 distinct bars, which extend from under the soft dorsal fin to about halfway down the body.


The Columbia sculpin is generally known to inhabit rocky riffle habitats in large rivers and their tributary streams.


Limited amounts of suitable habitat, competition from other sculpin species, and fluctuations in water temperature, flow, and quality are some of the threats that have contributed to this species’ classification of “Special Concern.”

Dams have also eliminated suitable habitats in some areas. Agriculture, mining, logging, pollution from lumber mills, sewage treatment facilities, and other types of human disturbance have had detrimental effects. In the past, lake poisoning programs exterminated the species in some areas all together .

How Can You Help?

  • Prevent pollution: Avoid polluting streams, lakes and rivers with garbage, fuel, pesticides or other contaminants. Remember that much of what you pour into your drains will ultimately make it to rivers and lakes.

  • Keep beaches clean: Always put trash in trash cans, especially near rivers, lakes and beaches.

  • Recyle and reuse: Help reduce waste by recycling or reusing plastic and paper goods.

  • Participate in community consultations: Get involved in Community Working Groups or visit

  • Volunteer: This may include participating on committees, attending meetings, assisting at educational outreach events, distributing outreach materials, getting involved with a conservation organization, or just simply telling a neighbour or a friend about this species.

The Columbia sculpin will get the protection it needs only if all Canadians work together to reduce threats. Find out more about the Columbia sculpin and be aware of human-induced threats. Do your best to reduce these threats and better protect the habitat of this species at risk by getting involved with the Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk (HSP) or another conservation organization.

Further Information:

In Canada, this species is endemic to the Columbia River mainstem and tributaries downstream of the Arrow Lakes in British Columbia. Abundance and distribution trends are not known in Canada.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Province of British Columbia are currently developing a management plan for the Columbia sculpin. The document’s purpose is to set goals and objectives for maintaining sustainable population levels of this species.

Sculpin studies have been mandated under the Columbia Water Use Plan and results will be included in decisions around water management. The Columbia sculpin is also included within the South Okanagan - Similkameen Conservation Program multi-species association.

Scientific Information:

Scientific name: Cottus hubbsi
Taxonomy: Fishes (freshwater)