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Wildlife Finds: Greenback Cutthroat Trout

A Fish & WIldlie Service employee holds a mature specimen. US Fish & Wildlife Service, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Greenback Cutthroat Trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii stomias) are one member of the trout and salmon family that have faced countless hurdles to their survival over the last 150 years. Wildlife experts suspect the mountains and foothills of the Arkansas and South Platte river watersheds once supported (comparatively) large and wide-spread populations of this species but the rapid settlement and boom of mining activity in Colorado dramatically reduced this species' numbers.

Today, just a little over one-hundred and forty miles of stream and river (plus nearly a square mile of lakes and ponds) have been found to support this species. These populations have become increasingly isolated over the years and are in danger of disappearance as their home waters and routes to spawning grounds become disturbed or too inhospitable.

Like other trout subspecies, cool, clear water (with plenty of oxygen) is necessary for populations to thrive. Throughout their life cycle, they also seek different riparian habitats to suit their needs: sheltered low-flowing areas give a safe space for juvenile trout to grow, while older individuals tend to seek fast flows for feeding and deeper, slower waters for periods of rest, both with plenty of cover from stones and wood fallen into streams.

Some streams of the Greenhorn Mountain Wilderness fit the bill for this species' habits, meaning that the little water found in that relatively dry area (by Colorado standards, at least) is a necessary lifeline for the southernmost populations of this species.

You can read more about the greenback cutthroat trout from the US Fish & WIldlife Service. You'll also find reports on the status and conservation of this species over time, and an interactive map of their range.


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