Colorado state fish back in nature

Colorado’s state fish, the greenback cutthroat trout, was once considered completely extinct, but local biologists announced that the species is now reproducing on its own in Colorado rivers.

“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. 

The species was first labeled extinct in the 1930s until small populations were found throughout the state in the coming decades until researchers discovered that the small populations were a similar-looking subspecies of the trout. They thought the greenback was officially gone. 

But in 2012, researchers discovered the world’s only natural, the purebred population of greenback cutthroat trout in a 3.5-mile run of Bear Creek. Now Colorado Parks and Wildlife keep a hatchery to help keep populations stable. 

“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. 

In 2016 they started introducing the trout to local waters in hopes of restoring the native population but a mix of predation, pollution, and disease ravaged most of the populations by 2020. 

But now, in 2022, the greenback has been discovered reproducing in the wild. There may still be an uphill battle for restoring the species but this marks a bright spot in that effort.

Inspired to Act?

DONATE: If you want to support Colorado’s environmental efforts you can donate to Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

SUPPORT: Research the common species in your area and look up ways you can help keep them safe.