CU Scientists Discover Subspecies of Cutthroat Trout

Last Surviving Greenback Cutthroat Trout at Bear Creek

For a fish species, the cutthroat trout has a reputation for being one of the most versatile. Today there are 14 recognized cutthroat trout subspecies throughout Northern America.

In southwest Colorado, an unknown subspecies of the cutthroat trout was recently discovered to have once existed in San Juan Basin. Only four subspecies were believed to have existed in all of Colorado until the recent discovery. The subspecies is indeed extinct and was only discovered through DNA research.

The team was created by scientists at the University of Colorado to find out as to why the greenback cutthroat, Colorado’s state fish, has disappeared entirely from the South Platte River and can now only be found in Bear Creek. The waters of Bear Creek and the South Platte River do not connect, resulting in many wondering as to how the fish could have possibly traveled.

The team was successful at finding the answer. The study, which is now published and can be found in Molecular Ecology, describes how a hotel owner from the late 1800s stocked the fish in order to promote the appeal for tourists to travel to Pikes Peak. This stocking of the greenback cutthroat trout in a Bear Creek pond is the sole reason as to why the subspecies is not currently extinct.

Visit Colorado Parks & Wildlife or call (303) 297-1192 for more information.