CU study reveals most Colorado cutthroats are hybrids


Posted Mon, Oct 8, 2012

TROUT FISHING IN AMERICA: DNA testing has revealed most of Colorado’s state fish are hybrids. [Photo: Spencer Hunt]

DENVER- A University of Colorado study released Sept. 24, had shocking news for anglers and conservationist. The current species of Colorado’s state fish, the Greenback Cutthroat, has been misidentified.

From 1889-1925 the state of Colorado has stocked mountain lakes, reservoirs and streams with what they believed to be 50 million Greenbacks. However, CU-Boulder postdoctoral researcher Jessica Metcalf has revealed, though DNA testing, that the current species of Cutthroats populating the state’s lakes and rivers are a hybrid.

The original Greenback Cutthroat exists only in a small stretch of Bear Creek stream near Colorado Springs. Their numbers are estimated to be as low as 750. The dwindling population is alarming for anglers and conservationist who are worried the state fish may become extinct if nothing is done.

“I think the recent news about Greenback Cutthroat Trout in Colorado is a real eye opener,” said Brent Facchinello, owner of Mile High Trout, a fisherman’s outfitter specializing in educating anglers about Colorado’s native trout, rivers, streams, lakes and conservation. “The pure species went from threatened to endangered overnight. It shows the importance of education, regulation and conservation.”

Bear Creek’s Cutthroats were originally stocked in 1880 by a hotel operator trying to boost tourism around Pikes Peak. Greenback’s are native to the South Platte, but have subsequently died off over the years. Since this study was released, the federal government has been looking into changing the Greenback from “threatened” to “endangered” on its list of protected species.

One of the major issues facing Bear Creek’s Greenback population is that off-road trails for 4×4’s and dirt bikes are eroding its habitation. This has forced conservationists to demand the Forrest Service re-route these trails in order to save the endangered species.

“Keep your eye out in the news,” Facchinello said, “for this will have some heated discussions from other interested parties such as hikers, bikers, Dirt Bikers, 4×4 trail users, campers, miners ranchers, water rights issues, and so on.

Facchinello underlines the fact that local fisherman have a great opportunity to get involved with protecting and helping the pure Greenback increase their numbers to a healthy population.

“Be part of history,” Facchinello said. “It will take more than just the support of local fisherman, but the state as a whole.”

A Rose By Any Other Name….
Oncorhynchus Clarkii
(Greenback Cutthroat)

* The name cutthroat refers to the red coloring underneath the mouth.

* Cutthroat is native to the Rocky Mountains, Pacific Northwest, and the Great Basin.

* The Colorado State fish readily interbreeds with Rainbow trout, thus producing Greenback hybrids.

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About Spencer Hunt

Spencer is an avid fisherman during the summer months and a dedicated snowboarder during the winter. He lives in Wash Park and works for a Denver based Advertising firm

View all posts by Spencer Hunt

4 Responses to “CU study reveals most Colorado cutthroats are hybrids”

  1. Kevin Hall Says:

    Interesting story, I never knew that such a drastic thing was happening in our state. Especially for our state fish.


  2. Leah Raaflaub Says:

    I really like how this is written. Very informational and to the point in the beginning, and then as the story goes on we get a nice history. Very interesting!


  3. Ashley King Says:

    I’ve never even really heard of there being hybrid fish. I thought a cutthroat was a cutthroat, I didn’t know there were different types. I’ve heard about native fish populations dying out, it’s sad the population of our state fish is dying out.


  4. Scott Corbridge Says:

    Cool story. Very interesting to hear about how the fish was misidentified after all these years. You have to hope that something will be done to keep the fish alive in the lakes.


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