Endangered June Sucker Moved to Utah Lake

Endangered June Sucker Moved to Utah Lake

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PROVO, Utah (AP) -- More than 8,500 endangered June sucker are being moved to Utah Lake from Red Butte Reservoir, which is being drained.

The fish have been moved from the reservoir in Salt Lake County over the past six weeks in a special truck designed for fish transport, said Krissy Wilson, wildlife biologist with the state Division of Wildlife Resources.

The last fish will be trucked this week, she said.

The fish were stocked in Red Butte several years ago as a backup population to the wild June sucker in Utah Lake, where they are native but have to compete with about 7.5 million carp.

Experts believe there are as few as 300 adult wild June sucker left.

Red Butte Reservoir, at the base of Red Butte Canyon, 1.5 miles east of the University of Utah, is being drained for a $6 million seismic upgrade of its dam.

The draining also provided an opportunity to get rid of nonnative crayfish that were illegally introduced into the reservoir in recent years.

"The crayfish population has just exploded," Wilson said. "They've changed the entire ecosystem of Red Butte, so we want to fix the dam and get rid of the crayfish."

When the adult June sucker were taken from the reservoir, a plastic tag was attached to their dorsal fins to keep the Red Butte fish separate from existing wild June sucker in Utah Lake for study purposes, said Reed Harris of the June Sucker Recovery Program.

"We hope they add to the spawning run in the Provo River," he said. No young June sucker have lived to sexual maturity in Utah Lake for decades, despite introduction of thousands of hatchery-raised fish in recent years.

Only June sucker at least 8 inches long were brought to Utah Lake from Red Butte because they are large enough to avoid predation, Harris said.

About 1,500 smaller June sucker were taken from Red Butte to Ensign Ponds in northwest Box Elder County, said Wilson. When they reach 8 inches, they will be taken back to Red Butte or released into Utah Lake.

In the 1800s, Utah Lake was home to at least six native species of fish. Now, the June sucker and the Utah sucker are the only two remaining.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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