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Pink Heelsplitter

Pink Heelsplitter

North Dakota Species of Conservation Priority II

Fact Sheet
Scientific Name Potamilus alatus
General Description Large shell, up to 8 inches. Generally rectangular in shape. Posterior end flat and anterior end rounded. Shell dark green to brown.
Status Year-round resident.
Abundance Locally common.
Primary Habitat Medium to large rivers. Bottom substrate mud or a mix of mud and sand.
Federal Status None.
Reason for Designation Changes in land use in around the Red and Sheyenne rivers, and impoundment have impacted beds of these mussels.


Pink Heelsplitter
Pink Heelsplitter

(Photos courtesy of Prairie Waters Education and Research Center - Valley City University)

Locations and Conditions of Key Habitat

Preferred Habitat

Found in large rivers with a channel width of 18-63 m.

Key Areas and Conditions for Pink Heelsplitter in North Dakota

Found in the Red and Sheyenne rivers. Highest concentrations found in the Red River near the town of Argusville.

Problems Which May Affect this Species


Impoundments of the Red River and its tributaries have changed the flow regime and increased sediment deposits, making many areas in these rivers unsuitable to the Pink Heelsplitter. Impoundments also block host fish movement necessary for this species’ reproduction and dispersal. Agricultural practices within the basin have reduced suitable habitat in the river. Runoff from treated fields into the river decreases water quality. Ditches used to drain wetlands and fields contribute to run-off and sedimentation in the Red River and its tributaries. These practices may contribute to this species’ decline. Freshwater mussels are generally intolerant of pollution.

Other Natural or Manmade Factors

The Pink Heelsplitter is considered a commercially valuable species. It is presently illegal to collect mussels for commercial use, but this practice may occur in parts of its range.

Research and Survey Efforts

Current Research or Surveys

  • No current research or survey efforts are on-going in this species range.

Previous Research or Surveys

  • Cvancara conducted a state-wide survey of the mussels of North Dakota in 1978.
  • The North Dakota Game and Fish Department revisited Cvancara’s sites in 1990.
  • Valley City State University revisited Cvancara’s sites and surveyed additional sites in 2008.
  • The NDDH conducted freshwater mussel surveys for state waters as a segment of its Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) work.

Additional Research or Surveys Needed

  • A monitoring protocol for mussel species has been developed for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department under the SWG program. Implementation of this monitoring protocol is a future goal.

Management Recommendations

  • Develop buffers along riparian areas.
  • Work with partners to reduce the use of chemical near waterways.
  • Work with partners to reduce wetland drainage.
  • Remove river impoundments where possible.
  • Work with partners to maintain instream flows.

Monitoring Plans

A monitoring protocol has been developed for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department under the SWG program. Implementation of this monitoring protocol is a future goal.

2005-2015 Progress

SWG T-24-R A Two Phase Population Survey of Mussels in North Dakota Rivers provided important information on the distribution of this species. Work to implement a monitoring protocol for mussels species will is a goal of the revised Wildlife Action Plan.

Range Map

Note: A listing of works consulted when compiling the information on this page may be found in the 2015 State Wildlife Action Plan.