Reintroduction assessment for the San Juan lineage cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus pleuriticus clarkii) in tributaries of the Animas River, Colorado, USA

Authors: Daniel Krumm*, Fort Lewis College, Isabella Arellano, Fort Lewis College, Megan Redetzke, Fort Lewis College, James S. Potestio, Fort Lewis College, Brenden Wedertz, Fort Lewis College, Haley Carpenter, Fort Lewis College, Jared Beeton, Fort Lewis College
Topics: Mountain Environments, Natural Resources, Water Resources and Hydrology
Keywords: trout, cutthroat, montane, mountain, stream, conservation, reintroduction, restoration, Colorado, alpine, assessment, habitat, climate change
Session Type: Virtual Guided Poster
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 54
Presentation File: Download

The San Juan lineage of the Colorado River cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii pleuriticus) is an extremely rare salmonid endemic to the San Juan mountain range. We conducted research in the subalpine and alpine regions of the San Juans in order to identify ecosystems with suitable habitat characteristics for San Juan lineage cutthroat trout restoration efforts. Cutthroat trout are highly sensitive to changes in their habitat, therefore climate change greatly impacts this species and their reproductive rates. As such, high elevation lakes and streams can provide stronghold habitat for this species. Previous restoration sites within the San Juans have had a 75% success rate for Colorado River cutthroat reintroductions (Colorado Parks and Wildlife 2014). Water samples analyzed for content of several chemical and bacterial pollutants indicated that the levels of pollutants at the study sites within the Hermosa Creek watershed and three other streams in the San Juan mountains were not notably high. Dissolved oxygen and temperature at each site also fell within ranges conducive to cutthroat trout reintroduction and continuance. Benthic macroinvertebrate collection revealed the presence of indicator groups such as stoneflies and mayflies at each site, which further indicated healthy potential cutthroat trout habitat. Turbidity at each site was acceptable. Stream velocities were measured near what is typically the lowest flow period of the year, but showed rates that would be highly desirable for native trout. The results of this study found significant evidence Lime, Cascade, and Junction Creeks would be suitable for native trout restoration.

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