Published: Sept. 1, 2014

cutthroat trout released

More than 1,000 greenback cutthroat trout were released into Zimmerman Lake on Aug. 8, 2014.

With help from CU-Boulder, “true” greenback cutthroat trout gets new chance to thrive

Encouraged by the results of a 2012 CU-led study, wildlife officials have stocked a northern Colorado lake with more than 1,000 native greenback cutthroat trout, an event that could help revive the fish’s fortunes in the state.

The greenback cutthroat is Colorado’s state fish. Native populations have dwindled due to pollution, overfishing, inbreeding and other factors, scientists say, and the fish is currently a protected species.

In 2012, Jessica Metcalf, senior research associate in CU-Boulder’s BioFrontiers Institute, led a genetic study that identified Colorado’s “true” greenback cutthroat species, distinguishing it from several subspecies. Descendants of the true greenback were found to be living in Bear Creek, west of Colorado Springs.

On Aug. 8, wildlife experts stocked Zimmerman Lake in northern Colorado with 1,200 greenback cutthroat fingerlings, part of an effort to replenish their numbers. CU scientists will monitor a sample of the fingerlings over time.

“This is a conservation genetics success story,” says Metcalf. “We were able to use historical specimens to find out something quite novel about cutthroat trout biodiversity that has resulted in a management action. We are not just bringing a native species back to its historic range, but the greenback cutthroat trout, our Colorado state fish.”

Read more about cutthroat trout.

Photography by Glenn Asakawa