Colorado’s state fish, the greenback cutthroat trout is making a comeback after thought to be extinct in the wild! State biologists recently made an incredible discovery and announced it was reproducing on its own! It’s population is hopefully on the rise, but it still has some fighting to do.
The Colorado Sun reported, “For decades, experts feared Colorado’s greenback cutthroat trout to be extinct, a casualty of mining pollution, anglers and more competitive species. So when biologists made the improbable discovery of a naturally reproducing population in a short stretch of Bear Creek west of Colorado Springs 10 years ago, they clung to the hope that the near-miracle could be replicated.
Last Friday, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) confirmed that the Bear Creek greenbacks now have company. Reintroduction efforts in Herman Gulch, the popular hiking destination just off Interstate 70 near the Loveland ski area, have yielded fish that are reproducing on their own — and sparking renewed optimism that other greenback stocking projects will soon follow suit.
State natural resources officials said the news affirmed their “bedrock mission” to support wildlife across the state and reflected years of collaborative effort among agencies. The stocking in Herman Gulch started in 2016, and now includes its first population of greenback cutthroats — the official state fish — old enough to reproduce .
“It’s kind of a waiting game for those fish to mature and reproduce,” said Josh Nehring, assistant aquatic section manager for CPW. “So we’re just super excited and hoping to get a lot more populations out on the landscape.
In 2020, CPW stated that the adult trout population saw 80 percent decline over the last three years. They said that a combination of disease, rising temperatures and other factors were to blame. CPW also said that the greenback trout faces competition from other non-Coloradan predators, such as the brook trout and brown trout, which have invaded local habitats and hurt the native fish populations.
“This is just another affirmation that our conservation practices work and that we can save species on the brink,” said Kevin Rogers, an aquatics researcher for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
“Each spring, CPW aquatic biologists have strapped on heavy electro-fishing backpacks to painstakingly hike up Bear Creek to catch greenbacks and collect milt and roe – sperm and eggs,” CPW said.
Hopefully, the CPW can keep up the good work and help those little guys thrive!