These cutthroat trout are the only living genetic remnants of trout that swam in the South Platte Basin more than 200 years ago.
The greenback cutthroat trout is Colorado's state fish, and once swam plentifully in the cold waters flowing into the South Platte Basin. But mining and overfishing led many to believe the fish was extinct by the 1930s. When the fish were rediscovered, conservation efforts focused on reviving the population. Scientists soon discovered the fish they were trying to save were not, in fact, greenback cutthroats, but other similar species of trout.
Unbelievably, genetically pure greenback cutthroats were discovered in a four-mile span of Bear Creek, part of the Arkansas River basin. Although Bear Creek is not their native habitat, important conservation projects now focus on the creek with the goal of repopulating the South Platte Basin with the fish.
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Although only about 750 greenback cutthroats remained when the new conservation efforts began, there are now at least 530 adults, 1,100 yearlings and more than 3,000 egg and larval-stage fish at the federal hatchery dedicated to reviving the species.
The aim is to establish 20 stable populations in different rivers and streams, each consisting of 4,000 to 5,000 greenback cutthroats.