Colorado Parks & Wildlife, the San Juan National Forest, and Trout Unlimited are partnering to repopulate Wolf Creek with San Juan Cutthroat trout

Courtesy Photo This trout is one of a new pure genetic strain of cutthroat trout (San Juan cutthroat) found recently by Colorado Parks and wildlife biologists. This photo was taken at CPW’s Durango fish hatchery via the South Fork Tines.

From The Pagosa Springs Sun (John Finefrock):

The San Juan cutthroat trout, a fish native to the San Juan Wa- tershed and once thought to be extinct, will be reintroduced to the area in a project administered by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW ) and the San Juan National Forest…

In 1874, naturalist Charles E. Aiken collected and preserved samples of the San Juan cutthroat in Pagosa Springs, one of which has been stored in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., since the late 1800s.

The San Juan cutthroat was believed to have gone extinct about 100 years ago.

About 10 years ago, samples of a cutthroat were collected, but scien- tists didn’t, or couldn’t, prove that it was the same genetically pure San Juan cutthroat that originated in the San Juan Watershed and was collected in 1874.

“There were a couple populations identified around 10 years ago,” Hanks said. “People started looking at ‘em and saying, ‘Hey, what’s the deal with these, there might be something special about these. But, the consensus was that they were just some sort of hybrid.”

Last year, modern genetic test- ing was done on the fish samples collected 10 years ago that prove a genetic match between the recent samples and the Smithsonian samples from the late 1800s. “Now we know, without a shadow of a doubt, that those fish we’ve always wondered about are indeed the San Juan lineage cutthroat trout. They are not a hybrid, they are native to the San Juan Basin,” said Hanks.

Now, CPW, the San Juan National Forest and Trout Unlimited are partnering to breed and reintroduce the San Juan cutthroat, in abundance, to the area around Pagosa Springs…

The project, currently under- way, will breed the San Juan cut- throats in the Durango hatchery and ultimately release them into Wolf Creek, near Wolf Creek Pass…

Hanks explained that Wolf Creek was chosen as the site of the proj- ect because “it’s a very productive fishery.”

The San Juan cutthroat bred in Durango will be released into Wolf Creek around the summer of 2022.

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