Cutthroat Trout reintroduced to southern #Colorado waterways — KOAA

CPW staff spawn unique cutthroat trout rescued from Hayden Pass fire. Photo credit Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

From Colorado Parks & Wildlife via KOAA:

Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) continues to reintroduce one of the state’s prized animals to its natural habitat.

This week, CPW officers released infant Colorado River Cutthroat Trout to waterways in Southern Colorado. These fish were released into the North French Creek drainage because this body of water does not contain fish in its higher regions, allowing the trout to grow and reproduce.

The fish being stocked are the descendants of roughly 200 fish taken out of Hayden Creek near Salida, Colorado, during the Hayden Pass Fire in 2016. The fish were then taken to a CPW fish hatchery for their protection.

CPW said because of the fire, the creek is still uninhabitable, which is why they are putting the fish in other areas.

“When we have three to five stable populations in the Arkansas watershed, I’ll know we are preserving this unique species,” said PSICC Fisheries Biologist Janelle Valladares. “When I’m working on this project, I always think about conservationist Aldo Leopold. He said, ‘To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering’. We may not know just how this fish fits into the larger picture, but despite fires and flooding, it is important to preserve as many species as possible until we have a more complete understanding of their contribution to the environment.”

Crews will stock about 2,000 fish over the next few weeks and plan to stock more over the next three years.

“Actively managing these increasingly rare fisheries habitats is critical to maintaining the viability of these rare cutthroat,” said Pikes Peak District Ranger Oscar Martinez. “I am excited we can capitalize on the unique characteristics of Ruxton and French Creeks to help us with the stewardship of the cutthroat in response to an increasing number of stressors, like climate change and wildland fire events.”

The fish are most closely related to the Colorado River cutthroat trout, but with unique genetics that do not exist in any other trout population. The genetics of these cutthroat trout match museum specimens collected from Twin Lakes, near Leadville, Colorado, in 1890, according to CPW.

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