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From the Gazette:

Endangered trout feared to be lost by Hayden Pass fire


By: Seth Boster
July 14, 2016 at 6:06 am


The Hayden Pass fire has burned over a creek in the Sangre De Cristo wilderness, and a fish is feared to be extinct.

A 3-mile stretch of Hayden Creek's south prong has been home to a thriving habitat of cutthroat trout protected by the Endangered Species Act, said Greg Policky, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife fish biologist who for years has worked with the U.S. Forest Service to maintain the species.

The family is "one of a kind," he said, related to the greenbacks with the same tiny appearance, but with DNA not known to be in any fish anywhere else.

They are more numerous than the only known pure greenback species found in the Bear Creek Watershed, a species the Forest Service plans to protect by altering nearby roads and trails. But these Hayden Creek cutthroat are similarly important, Policky said.

"There's no other cutthroat population that shares their genetics, and when they're gone, they're gone," he said. "We're hoping they're not gone."

The latest population survey from 2014 showed that the fish were self-sustaining, with five age groups represented. A barrier was built in 2003 at the creek's confluence to prevent other fish from entering the habitat, Policky said, and two years later, a reclamation project removed some brown trout within the cutthroat's population. There were more efforts in the following years, the biologist said, and surveys revealed steady growth. Policky estimated the population was about 2,000 today.

"Prior to all that work, they were barely hanging on," Policky said. "Prior to this fire, they were doing very well."

The family is "one of a kind," he said, related to the greenbacks with the same tiny appearance, but with DNA not known to be in any fish anywhere else.

They are more numerous than the only known pure greenback species found in the Bear Creek Watershed, a species the Forest Service plans to protect by altering nearby roads and trails. But these Hayden Creek cutthroat are similarly important, Policky said.

"There's no other cutthroat population that shares their genetics, and when they're gone, they're gone," he said. "We're hoping they're not gone."

The latest population survey from 2014 showed that the fish were self-sustaining, with five age groups represented. A barrier was built in 2003 at the creek's confluence to prevent other fish from entering the habitat, Policky said, and two years later, a reclamation project removed some brown trout within the cutthroat's population. There were more efforts in the following years, the biologist said, and surveys revealed steady growth. Policky estimated the population was about 2,000 today.

"Prior to all that work, they were barely hanging on," Policky said. "Prior to this fire, they were doing very well."

Since a lightning strike west of the creek Friday, the Hayden Pass fire has raged over nearly 13,000 acres, officials said Wednesday.

In cases of wildfires, fish typically save themselves by swimming up or downstream. It's possible the cutthroats managed to escape by passing their protective barrier, Policky said. In that case, they could be lost from the population forever, unless they were placed in an isolated hatchery.

That could be one approach to rescuing the species, if rescuing is found to be an option. If the fish survived the heat of the flames, they would remain under the threat of ash and sediment. Policky said specialists will assess the creek when the area is safe.

Policky said the closest known genetic twin to the at-risk cutthroat was specimen kept by the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History - trout collected by the ichthyologist David Starr Jordan in 1889 at Twin Lakes. There are only theories as to how the cutthroat came to be in Hayden Creek: either they were translocated at some point or have persisted there for thousands of years.

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Contact Seth Boster: 636-0332

Twitter: @SethBoster**
 

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I would like to pretend I care...but it's just one of thousands of strains of cutts... Sucks about the fire, but man needs to let overgrown forest burn sometimes... I hope no lives are taken.
 

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I doubt many people beyond the fisheries biologist community care.
 

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Everywhere has some endangered subspecies to use to stop any development. California has Tiger Salamanders, which every water shed is a different subspecies. The Rockies have Cutthroat Trout. Kangaroo Rats are another good example.

I get protecting species, but subspecies seems pushing it to me.
 

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Spoiler alert! The trout and there habitat look to have dodged a bullet.
 

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Oh, and stay safe, Chris (sorelips)... the flows are getting perfect and I can't have you injured now that runoff is done.
 

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Looks like the local fisheries biologist is bringing in a team to gather some trout. They want to have a group of fish to breed if the drainage becomes impacted from ash and soil erosion from heavy rains. So far the riparian area in the drainage is intact but the surrounding area at higher elevations burned very intensely so mud and ash slides as well as erosion is still a possible impact.
 

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Looks like the local fisheries biologist is bringing in a team to gather some trout. They want to have a group of fish to breed if the drainage becomes impacted from ash and soil erosion from heavy rains. So far the riparian area in the drainage is intact but the surrounding area at higher elevations burned very intensely so mud and ash slides as well as erosion is still a possible impact.
I talked with a rep at the Coaldale H.S. yesterday and he told me that CPW intends to collect 1,000+ fish from the affected area to transplant and/or install in a hatchery.

In respect to the ash and soil erosion, they expect that will even impact the Arkansas.
 
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