MDC asks public to contribute to Nishnabotna River Observation Survey

News from the region
Published Date

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and Missouri Stream Team are asking volunteers to report animal sightings along the Nishnabotna River in northwest Missouri following a massive fish kill earlier this spring. 

In early March, more than 40,000 fish of at least 16 species died along the Missouri portion of the river following a fertilizer spill in Iowa. Rainfall helped move the pollutant out of the Nishnabotna and into the Missouri River, ending the immediate fish kill. However, brumating turtles buried in the mud of the river may have also died and may not float to the surface for a few months after the initial impact.

“It’s unclear how much of the liquid nitrogen fertilizer is stored in the river sediment,” noted MDC Ecological Health Unit Science Supervisor Matt Combes. “It’s possible the fertilizer could mobilize once the water warms up this summer, resulting in another fish kill.”

Volunteers are urged to report sightings of fish and wildlife, notably alive turtles, by submitting a report to the Nishnabotna River Observation Survey online at Reports can be submitted through Oct. 1. Additionally, participants can email pictures or videos of their sightings to

The Nishnobotna River is a Missouri River tributary that is located in the extreme northwest part of Missouri.

“The fish kill impacted a 60-mile stretch of the river,” said Combes. “Scientists will keep a close eye on the continued impacts of this event but will need the public’s help. Contributing to the observation survey will allow water pollution staff to monitor the status of the river and how wildlife populations are responding.”