Colorado Parks & Wildlife Working to Restore Rare Cutthroat Trout
Biologists with Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) are working hard to bring the rare San Juan cutthroat trout back to its native habitat.
The fish has a storied history in Colorado, as CPW reports that biologists have been searching for small populations of the trout for over 50 years. But due to the animals' scarcity, it was difficult to determine whether the fish scientists located were members of Colorado's native trout. Luckily, two specimens of the animal were taken from the San Juan River in 1874 and placed in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.
However, these specimens lay dormant until 2018, when CPW confirmed that they matched a group of cutthroat trout biologists discovered in southwest Colorado in the 1980s and 1990s.
After realizing that the cutthroat trout specimens were indeed the same species as the fish found in the wild, biologists began planning to propagate the remaining fish.
The 2018 416 Fire accelerated these plans, as researchers feared that ash and sediment from the fire would kill the wild cutthroats.
According to CPW, biologists were able to rescue 54 cutthroats from the fire and bring them to an isolated hatchery in Durango.
Unfortunately, the first year of the experiment did not bode well, as none of the fish reproduced and a few of them died.
But now, almost two years later, CPW is happy to announce that researchers have taken the first spawn from what will be a new linage of the San Juan cutthroat trout.
The eggs will hatch in mid-summer. Some of the newborn fish will be released in the wild, while others will stay at the hatchery.
Despite not having a lot of eggs yet, biologists are hopeful that they will be able to bring the trout back to its native southwest Colorado.
CPW is currently keeping mum on the stream locations of wild cutthroats in order to protect the fish, but researchers anticipate that anglers will be able to find the animal in the wild in just a few years.