Animals

Dec 12, 2011 12:13 PM by Greg Boyce

Minnows reintroduced in Arkansas River

Two rare minnows are once again swimming in the Arkansas River thanks to pioneering research efforts at the John Mumma Native Aquatic Species Restoration Facility.

Plains minnows and suckermouth minnows are native species on the Colorado threatened and endangered list. The small minnows were stocked into the Arkansas River above John Martin Reservoir near Rocky Ford last month. The fish will be monitored annually to determine the success of the stocking effort.

"We've been working on getting them re-established in portions of their native habitat for over a decade but were unable to reproduce them successfully until recently," said Paul Foutz, Southeast Region Native Aquatic Species Biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Because plains minnows and suckermouth minnows are exceedingly rare, efforts to aid in their recovery were hampered by the fact that very little research was available about the optimal conditions for them to reproduce in a hatchery. Since 2000, the staff at the Native Aquatic Species Restoration Facility near Alamosa has worked to produce viable offspring. Several times they were able to achieve successful reproduction, only to encounter difficulties raising the young fish to maturity.

After a breakthrough in 2010, hatchery staff was able to create the proper conditions and reared approximately 38,000 plains minnow and 4,000 suckermouth minnows in 2011. The fish ranged in size from one to two inches.

The original bloodstock of plains minnows came from collections in Kansas on the Salt Fork of the Arkansas River in Barber County. The suckermouth minnows are offspring of fish that were collected from the wild in Colorado in areas where small populations existed in the Arkansas River.

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