Montana FWP fish count shows growth in reconstructed Prickly Pear Creek

Excerpt from KTVH, September 13, 2021. Read entire article and watch video here.

By Jonathon Ambarian

EAST HELENA — Years of restoration work have reshaped the environment along Prickly Pear Creek, near East Helena. Now, we’re getting a look at what impact that work is having on wildlife.

Last week, a team from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks got into the creek with a small barge, protective gear and an electrified probe. They were “electrofishing” – using low-level electric shocks to stun fish, pick them up with nets, then count and measure them before releasing them back into the stream.

Several years ago, this area was part of the ASARCO smelter site. After a century of industrial operations, the creek had been redirected from its original channel and much of the surrounding area was contaminated with hazardous substances.

In the last decade, though, organizations have come together to restore the site to a more natural state. They’ve reconstructed about a mile and a half of Prickly Pear Creek, bringing it closer to the original floodplain. Eight-foot-high willows are now growing along the banks.