Last year a fisherman in Nevada caught a Lahontan cutthroat trout, a fish believed to have gone extinct. The beloved fish had been reported capable of growing up to 60 pounds thanks to the ice age forming a unique inland water system (comprised of Pyramid Lake, Lake Tahoe, and Truckee River). Lahontan cutthroats were very plentiful at one time, but the environmental impacts of dams and pollution proved too much for the fish: “By the mid-1940s, all the native trout in Pyramid Lake and Lake Tahoe were dead and the strain was declared extinct.” The Paiute Tribe was able to restock and re-establish Pyramid lake with strains of Lahontan cutthroat from nearby lakes, as well as save Pyramid Lake’s endangered Cui-ui sucker from extinction. After this attempt at reintroduction, a fish biologist actually found surviving, original Pyramid Lake strain Lahontan cutthroats in Pilot Peak creek. Some eggs from Pilot Peak were fortuitously collected and brought to a hatchery before a wildfire killed off the creek a few years later. In 2006, the original strain cutthroats were returned to their ancestral habitat, Pyramid Lake, with the hopes they could survive. It wasn’t until late last year, when fishermen started reeling the cutthroats in, that biologist knew the reintroduction had worked. The fish were thriving and they “grew five times as fast as other trout species and are only a third of the way through their expected life span.”
Personally, I don’t think this article is as exciting as finding a Sumatran Rhino in the wild, where they hadn’t been seen for over twenty years, but it is still really exciting!! Not many species that are so close to extinction are able to bounce back. This is most likely because whatever caused them to become so threatened in the first place probably didn’t change too much (i.e. man-made devices, pollution, deforestation, etc). However, without a doubt, this is a great example of a conservation success and how much progress can be made by organizations working together for the benefit of a species.