Return of the native Colorado River cutthroat trout – Colorado News

Return of the native Colorado River cutthroat trout – Colorado News

DURANGO, Colo. | When all is said and done, the upper reaches of Hermosa Creek, north of Durango, will have the largest continuous stretch of native Colorado River cutthroat trout in the state.

“In Colorado, we’ve got a religion that we need to bring back the natives,” said Buck Skillen, a member of the local chapter of Trout Unlimited. “And this is a big deal.”

The effort to restore Colorado River cutthroat trout in Hermosa Creek dates back to the early 1990s when wildlife managers used a natural waterfall on the creek’s east fork as a protective barrier.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife cleared out non-native species of trout — specifically brook, brown and rainbows — using a short-lived, organic poison known as rotenone. And in their place, it released Colorado River cutthroat trout, giving the waterway to the native fish for the first time in probably 100 years.

“And we’re going to work real hard to keep it that way,” Skillen said.

RANGE REDUCED DRAMATICALLY

In the late 1880s, Western settlers fished the Colorado River cutthroat trout to the point of extinction. Then, to keep an important food source available, they dumped other species of trout into the cutthroat’s habitat.

The introduction of brook, brown and rainbow trout further exacerbated any chance of a cutthroat revival, because the fish is ill-equipped to compete with the invasive species, which take over rivers through predation and hybridization.

The magnitude of the cutthroat’s loss has never been truly quantified, but its range — which once spanned Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming — was dramatically reduced, mostly because of habitat loss, overharvesting and…

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