July 21, 2016

Relocating Trout after the Hayden Pass Fire

Firefighters are demobilizng from the Hayden Pass Fire, which started Friday, July 8th, and really blew up the following weekend, covering more than 16,000 acres at the northen end of the Sangre de Cristo Range in Fremont and Custer counties.

Inside the fire permeter was a creek containing a genetically unique strain of endangered Colorado greenback cutthroat trout. Wildlife biologists feared they could be harmed by the fire itself or by erosion from burned slopes afterwards.

As soon as it was possible, a Colorado Parks and Wildlife crew retrieved as many of the trout as possible by electroshocking netting, in order to move them to a temporary home elsewhere.

From a forestry standpoint, this area was overdue for a big fire. I remember the last time that M. and I hiked up Big Cottonwood Creek, one of the drainages affected, I was struck by the amount of dead trees stacked up.

But as she points out, a lot of little lives are always lost in such a fire. We make our choices as to which ones can be saved.

1 comment:

Darrell said...

In 1978 I was living in Breckenridge, and working at the Climax molybdenum mine atop Fremont Pass, between Copper Mountain (Wheeler Junction) and Leadville. While driving to work early one morning, I found that the highway dept had opened a new stretch of the road, the climb on the Summit County side of the pass. I came around a corner to discover a beautiful mountain lake next to the road. Clinton Reservoir, on the back side of Bartlett Mountain, where the mine is.

I was a fishing fool back in the day, and hit the lake my next day off. I could tell a big fishing story, but I'll save that for another time. I'll just say that I caught five fish on five casts. One of them was rather large, and looked unfamiliar. Had trout for dinner that night. I learned later that when the reservoir backfilled it flooded some ponds back in the gulch, releasing native greenback cutthroat into the lake. The state closed the reservoir to fishing for years, using it as a hatchery to restore the trout to Colorado waters. And I ate one. I felt a little guilty at the time.