Colorado Wildlife Officials Make Huge Discovery About Previously Extinct Fish

by Amy Myers
Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Some good news has jumped out of the waters of Colorado. Wildlife officials have just discovered that a previously-extinct fish is now reproducing naturally in the wild.

In recent years, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) has been trying to bring back the greenback cutthroat trout to the state’s waters, and while they have been vigilant about protecting areas where the fish reappeared, wildlife authorities hadn’t seen the species officially take hold again in its natural habitat – until now.

“After more than a decade of intensive efforts to rescue the greenback cutthroat trout from the brink of extinction, CPW announced Friday it has discovered that the state fish is naturally reproducing in Herman Gulch, one of the first places the agency stocked it in its native South Platte River drainage,” CPW said in a news release.

Regarding the discovery, Colorado Governor Jared Polis applauded the CPW’s immense efforts to bring back the previously-extinct fish.

“CPW’s staff and our partner agencies have worked for more than a decade to restore this beloved state fish, and today’s news truly highlights the success of the work,” Polis said.

CPW Revives Extinct Fish Species by Preserving Natural Habitats and Implementing Hatcheries

In 1937, wildlife officials have considered this fish extinct due to mining pollution, competition from other trout species and fishing. However, in 2012, the department discovered a small population on the southwest edge of Colorado Springs in Bear Creek.

“The discovery triggered a massive effort by CPW and the Greenback Recovery Team – a multi-agency group of state and federal aquatic researchers and biologists – to protect the 3½-mile stretch of water holding the only known population of naturally reproducing greenbacks,” CPW said.

Since the significant rediscovery, CPW has extracted some of the formerly-extinct fish. To this day, they have kept a population in a hatchery in optimal conditions for breeding.

“In 2016, CPW began stocking the greenback fry that hatch from those eggs into Herman Gulch west of Denver. Stocking into other streams in the South Platte drainage soon followed. Today, fledgling greenback populations exist in four South Platte basin streams. But only the fish in Herman Gulch have existed long enough to reach adulthood and begin reproducing,” officials said.

Colorado Wildlife Officials Will Continue to Support Greenback Cutthroat Trout With Hatcheries

Needless to say, the discovery of the new generation is a huge step forward for the species. That said, the work for CPW isn’t yet finished. Officials reported that they will continue stocking the hatcheries with a hopeful outlook for the future.

“While we will continue to stock greenback trout from our hatcheries, the fact that they are now successfully reproducing in the wild is exciting for the future of this species,” Polis said.

“This is a huge wildlife conservation success story and a testament to the world-class wildlife agency Coloradans have in Colorado Parks and Wildlife,” he continued. “Colorado’s ecological diversity strengthens our community, supports our anglers, and our thriving outdoor recreation economy.”