©Joseph R. Tomelleri
Rio Grande Cutthroat
Historically, Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout occupied all cool waters in the Rio Grande drainage, including the Chama, Jemez and Rio San Jose drainages, along with suitable waters of the Pecos and Canadian drainages. They currently live in only about 100 headwater streams, occupying 10 percent of their former range. They have a yellowish green-gray to gray body with scattered black spots, and a densely spotted tail. Adults grow up to 12-13 inches long. The Rio Grande Cutthroat has officially been designated as the New Mexico State Fish.
For more than 20 years, agency biologists have been searching for Rio Grande cutthroat trout populations, studying their habitat, and restoring the species to streams. Historically, the Rio Grande cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii virginalis) occupied all cool waters in the Rio Grande drainage including the Chama, Jemez, and Rio San Jose drainages, along with suitable waters of the Pecos and Canadian drainages. The historic range of Rio Grande cutthroat trout has been reduced over the last 150 years due to many landscape changes, including drought, water infrastructure, habitat changes, hybridization with rainbow trout and other species of cutthroat trout, and competition from brown trout and brook trout. As a result of these changes, Rio Grande cutthroat trout populations are restricted primarily to headwater streams.
A conservation team established in 2003, composed of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, New Mexico Dept. of Game and Fish, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the Jicarilla-Apache Nation, the Mescalero-Apache Nation, and the Taos Pueblo tribe and conservation organizations such as the Western Native Trout Initiative and Trout Unlimited has collaborated to work on range-wide protection plans and completed numerous conservation projects for the species. An updated conservation agreement and 10-year plan to protect the Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout was signed in 2013 with the goal of assuring the long-term viability of Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout throughout its historic range and setting a conservation strategy for the near future.
Between 2007 and 2018, the Western Native Trout Initiative has provided $547,900 in funding to 18 projects to benefit Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout. Projects have ranged from barrier construction/restoration to keep non-native trout out of conservation waters, habitat restoration, genetics analysis, and public outreach and education.
READ MORE more about Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s efforts to conserve Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout.
READ MORE about New Mexico Game and Fish Department’s efforts to conserve Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout.
Download this brochure about Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout by clicking on the link below
Click here to watch a short video produced by WNTI featuring Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout in southern Colorado.
Recent news about Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Determines ESA Protection for the Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout is Not Warranted
After review of the best available scientific and commercial information, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) found that listing the Rio Grande cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii virginalis) under the Endangered Species Act is not warranted at this time. Therefore, the Service will remove this subspecies from the candidate list. The Service found that the Rio Grande cutthroat trout is not in danger of extinction throughout its range or in a significant portion of its range now, nor is it likely to become so in the foreseeable future. However, the Service is asking the public to submit any new information that becomes available concerning the status of the Rio Grande cutthroat trout at any time. This finding is available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket Number FWS-R2-ES-2014-0042. View the press release here.
Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout photo gallery
Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout. Photos courtesy of Kevin Terry.