Greenback cutthroat found in Utah for first time

Greenback cutthroat found in Utah for first time

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MOAB, Utah (AP) -- Utah wildlife officials have confirmed that there is a tiny population of rare greenback cutthroat trout in a small creek in the LaSal Mountains east of Moab.

Officials have issued an emergency fishing regulation to protect the fish. Greenback cutthroat are listed as threatened on the endangered species list and are managed as a protected fish.

This is the first time greenbacks have been discovered in Utah. They are genetically similar to Colorado River cutthroat, which have a historical range on the headwaters of the South Platte and Arkansas rivers in eastern Colorado.

"It is a bit of a mystery on how they got where they are. We will work to determine if they are native or were introduced at some point," said Roger Wilson, sport fishing coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

Wilson said the first goal is to protect the fish.

"We will try to protect them from intrusion from other fish and disease," Wilson said. "We will then start a discussion on if we should expand the population and, if so, how we will go about it."

Paul Birdsey, regional aquatics manager for the wildlife division's southeastern region, said the fish are limited to a 1.2-mile stretch of Beaver Creek. Anglers who fish the creek are now restricted to artificial flies and lures only and must release any cutthroat they catch.

"It is hard to say exactly where the population begins," Birdsey said. "We will be doing additional surveys to try and determine what barrier is on the creek that has kept them pure. We will then work with the Forest Service to reinforce that barrier."

Dennis Shiozawa, an aquatic biologist at Brigham Young University, identified the samples taken from Beaver Creek as greenback cutthroat using mitochondrial DNA testing.

The greenback cutthroat were ruled extinct in 1937 but survey work discovered small, remote populations. They are Colorado's state fish.

Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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