Greenback Cutthroat Trout

ZOO LOCATION: Rocky Mountain Wild

Lifespan: Average 7 years in the wild

Wild Diet: Crustaceans such as fresh-water shrimp, aquatic and terrestrial insects, and small fish.

Zoo Diet: Trout chow

Predators: Larger fish, large wading birds and predators such as bears


IUCN Status: Not Evaluated

USFWS ESA Status: Threatened

Habitat/Range: Cold, clear, gravely headwater streams and mountain lakes of the western United States. Freshwater.

Characteristics: Greenback cutthroat trout are coldwater fish belonging to the trout, salmon and whitefish family. They have dark, round spots on the sides and tail and two colorful blood-red stripes on each side of the throat under the jaw, hence the name "cutthroat." During the spring spawning season the entire belly may become crimson red.

Behavior: Cutthroat trout are solitary and sedentary, rarely moving or interacting unless it is to acquire food or to mate. When they do move, they propel themselves through the water by moving the latter half of their bodies (subcarangiforms). Some populations migrate from their natal streams to the ocean, while others migrate to lakes and ponds.

Reproduction: Spawning occurs usually from late May to mid-July in higher elevations. Male cutthroat spawn first at age two, and females mature a year later. Females build an egg pit in gravel generally three to eight inches deep and one foot in diameter. A 10-inch female will lay about 800 eggs. Larger fish of about four to seven pounds will lay up to 6,000 eggs.

Conservation: Habitat loss and the introductions of non-native trout, such as the rainbow, brook and brown trout, led to the decline of greenback cutthroat numbers. A cooperative recovery effort between the Division of Wildlife, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Rocky Mountain National Park was initiated for the greenback cutthroat trout. This recovery team, and university researchers and interested conservation groups such as Trout Unlimited, continue to conduct systematic searches for existing populations and suitable reintroduction sites. Presently, greenback trout occur in 58 lakes and streams and 23 of these meet the population criteria required by recovery goals.