Greenback cutthroat trout

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Greenback cutthroat trout
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Salmoniformes
Family: Salmonidae
Genus: Oncorhynchus
Species: O. clarki
Subspecies: O. c. stomias
Trinomial name
Oncorhynchus clarki stomias
(Cope, 1871)
Main article: Cutthroat trout

The greenback cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki stomias) is the easternmost subspecies of cutthroat trout. The greenback cutthroat, once widespread in the Arkansas and South Platte River drainages of Eastern Colorado and Southeast Wyoming, today occupies less than 1% of its historical range. It is currently listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. It was adopted in 1994 as the state fish of Colorado.


The greenback cutthroat's maximum size is 18 inches (46 cm). It has the largest spots of all cutthroats and is reported to have the most brilliant spawning coloration. Like all cutthroats, it has red coloration in the area of the lower jaw and throat. Historically, it has been reported to grow as large as 4.5 kilograms (9.9 lb).

Natural history[edit]

The cutthroat trout is thought to have evolved over the past two million years from other Oncorhynchus species which migrated up the Columbia and Snake river basins to the Green and Yellowstone river basins. Within the past 20,000 years, a population which crossed the Continental Divide during the most recent Ice Age gave rise to the greenback cutthroat. The greenback cutthroat trout today is found east of the Continental Divide in the cold, clear foothill and mountain waters of the Arkansas and South Platte Rivers. Although it was common in the late 19th century, ranging along the Front Range from Wyoming to New Mexico, it began to decline when settlers arrived in the area. Mining in its native river basins led to sediment and toxic runoff in the water. These factors, along with water diversion for agriculture and overfishing, led to the decline of many greenback cutthroat trout populations.

The introduction of non-native species such as brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis), brown trout (Salmo trutta), and rainbow trout (O. mykiss) was also detrimental to the greenback cutthroat. The former two species competed with greenback cutthroats while the latter hybridized with it, creating cutbows. Other subspecies of cutthroat were introduced to greenback habitat, further damaging populations due to hybridization.


Although the greenback cutthroat was considered extinct by the 1930s, in 1957 a population was discovered in Rocky Mountain National Park in the Big Thompson River, a tributary of the South Platte. Additional populations were found in 1965 and 1970, making possible the listing of the subspecies as endangered under the 1973 Endangered Species Act. Recovery efforts for the greenback cutthroat by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, assisted by Trout Unlimited, are ongoing and seemed to have made it possible to upgrade its status to threatened. However, it was recently determined that due to insufficient study of the original stock most if not all animals in the reintroduction program were actually the similar Colorado River cutthroat trout. Catch and release fishing of the greenback cutthroat is currently permitted in parts of both the South Platte and Arkansas River basins. The Bozeman National Fish Hatchery was a key player in the recovery of the greenback cutthroat trout.[1][2][3]

In 2012 a study conducted by the University of Colorado Boulder, using DNA samples from many different fish alleged to be greenback cutthroats, lead to the discovery that the only remaining population of pure greenback cutthroat trout is found in a 4 mile stretch of Bear Creek, a tributary of the Arkansas River. This study concluded that many of the populations previously identified as greenback cutthroat were actually the similar Colorado River & Rio Grande cutthroat species.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Greenback Cutthroat Trout Recovery Plan" (PDF). Greenback Cutthroat Trout Recovery Team. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1998. Retrieved 2014-03-04. 
  2. ^ Young, Michael K.; Harig, Amy L.; Rosenlund, Bruce; Kennedy, Chris (2002). "Recovery History of Greenback Cutthroat Trout: Population Characteristics, Hatchery Involvement, and Bibliography (RMRS-GTR-88WWW)". 1.0. United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. Retrieved 2006-06-17. 
  3. ^ "Nearly extinct cutthroat gets new lease on life". Bozeman Daily Chronicle. August 28, 1981. Retrieved May 6, 2012. 
  4. ^ "New CU-Boulder study clarifies diversity, distribution of cutthroat trout in Colorado". Be Boulder. Retrieved 2014-03-04. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Trotter, Patrick C. (2008). Cutthroat: Native Trout of the West (2nd ed.). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-25458-9. 
  • Rubingh, Jim; Fritz, Richard (2009). Colorado Greenback Cutthroat Trout: A Fisherman's Guide. Portland, OR: Frank Amato Publishers. ISBN 978-1-57188-447-3. 

External links[edit]