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Will the real greenback cutthroat trout please swim up!
The announcement Monday that the purebred form of Colorado's state fish, the greenback cutthroat trout, remains only in a small segment of stream near Colorado Springs arrives with good news, bad news and a dash of indifference.
The good news? That there still remains a genetically pure strain of the native greenbacks that once thrived in the rivers and lakes of Colorado. The bad news: Scientists estimate that only about 750 of the fish remain, all isolated within a 4-mile segment of the Bear Creek tributary to the Arkansas River southwest of Colorado Springs.
That's a razor-thin margin buffering the uncorrectable error of extinction, an unfortunate reality for at least two other regional subspecies of cutthroat trout that no longer survive. But the fact that folks are paying attention at all bodes well for the greenbacks, even if recovery efforts put in place before the genetic research led by two University of Colorado scientists revealed that those efforts were misplaced.
The research has triggered a reevaluation of the greenback recovery program by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the combined state-federal Greenback Cutthroat Recovery Team, which have been overseeing the recovery of the fish since it was placed on the endangered species list in 1973.
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Watch for a story about Bear Creek, home to these wild fish, this weekend (Sept. 29-30) in The Gazette.