Cutthroat Trout rescue

Colorado Parks and Wildlife aquatic biologists donned fire-retardant clothing and went in behind fire lines during the July 2016 Hayden Pass wildfire, southwest of Cañon City, to rescue 158 genetically unique cutthroat trout from the South Prong of Hayden Creek.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers will stock genetically unique cutthroat trout into the remote creeks high on Pikes Peak next week.

The trout were rescued from the Hayden Pass Fire in 2016 and is part of the agency's cutthroat restoration project. Officers will stock the fish in South Ruxton Creek and North French Creek, according to a news release. 

"Stocking these unique fish into Ruxton Creek is a key step to preserving these unique genes and ensuring we continue to have them on our landscape," said Josh Nehring, assistant aquatic section manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Last fall, Cory Noble, an aquatic biologist with CPW identified Ruxton Creek as a rare fish creek and determined its habitat would be favorable for the cutthroat trout. The lack of fish makes the process of establishing a population much easier, officials said. 

Wildlife officials began searching for remote high-altitude creeks to serve as new homes for the cutthroat trout, shortly after the Hayden Pass Fire was extinguished. The fire charred 16,754 acres and as a result made the species home uninhabitable, officials said. 

While the fire burned, wildlife officers and U.S. Forest Service members entered the fire zone to rescue 158 cutthroat trout from the Hayden Creek, prior to the monsoon rains, which flushed the creek with choking sediment and ash, according to a news release.

The 158 fish were relocated to the Roaring Just Hatchery near Crested Butte, where they spawned the fish the following spring. Currently, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is stocking the fish into several streams within the Arkansas Basin to ensure these "unique cutthroat genes" survive. 

Colorado Parks and Wildlife in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service have established a population the unique trout in two separate creeks -- Newlinn and Cottonwood -- and hope to eventually stock them in up to five streams. 

"Spreading them across the region makes them less vulnerable to extinction due to an isolated catastrophic fire, flood or disease outbreak," officials said in the release.