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More tests set for Yellowstone, tributaries after fish kill

A view of the Yellowstone River running upstream between Livingston and Yellowstone National Park. Parts of the river have been closed since Friday after parasitic disease killed thousands of whitefish

The river has been closed in response to a widespread fish kill that has apparently claimed thousands of whitefish as well as other species - including trout.

On Monday officials said wildlife workers are going to carry out tests on fish from more parts of Montana to find out the extent of a disease called culprit in a huge fish kill along the Yellowstone River.

Montana is closing a 183-mile stretch of the Yellowstone River to all recreational activities to prevent the spread of a parasite that is believed to have killed tens of thousands of fish.

The closures will remain - possibly for months - until the fish deaths end, according to officials from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

This Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016, photo shows Eric Burge of Livingston, Mont., looking over the Yellowstone River after prematurely ending a multi-day rafting trip because Montana wildlife officials closed a stretch of the river.

Results of laboratory tests are expected within a few days of collection.

The culprit behind the massive fish kill is a parasite known to cause a development of proliferative kidney disease in infected animals.

The section of the Yellowstone River closed by the order begins at the northern boundary of Yellowstone National Park, in Gardiner, and continues east and south almost to Billings, the state's largest city. The ban includes all river activities, including fishing and rafting.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials said Friday the closure extends from Yellowstone National Park's northern boundary at Gardiner to Laurel, along with tributaries in those areas.

However, state officials have acknowledged the order is all but impossible to enforce and they're counting heavily on voluntary compliance.

Yellowstone spokeswoman Charissa Reid said park biologists are monitoring waters inside the park, which are upstream from the affected areas. As he washed down his raft with a washcloth, Burge said he was disappointed but was "here for the long haul".

Acknowledging the effect of the river's closure to anglers, floaters and on all of the many businesses that service such recreationists, Gov. Steve Bullock said "the impact goes far beyond the water's edge".

While some outfitters can secure permits to relocate their business to other rivers, Feigel said others won't be able to do so.

"The sheer parasite loading itself is nearly shocking the fish, that that's what's killing them", said Eileen Ryce, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks' hatchery section chief, during a Tuesday press conference along the banks of the Yellowstone River south of Livingston.