Gila Trout

The Gila Trout (Oncorhynchus gilae gilae) is a species of fish native to the southwest United States (Arizona and New Mexico). It is an endangered species. Once occupying upwards of several hundred miles of streams, the Gila Trout’s area was reduced to only 20 miles all located in the Gila Wilderness and Aldo Leopold Wilderness by 1967. The causes of its decline was due to competition with introduced game fish and habitat loss (caused by loss of water and shade-giving trees). Habitat loss was caused greatly by fires, human destruction of riparian vegetation, livestock overgrazing, agricultural irrigation, and the channeling of streams in the fish’s native range.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service started an aggressive program to help bring back the lost populations of Gila Trout by removing the introduced game fish, restoring and repairing riparian vegetation, and restocking streams with young Gila Trout. The species is on the rebound and now more secure than 40 years ago. Though populations and habitat are still far from where the once were, conservationists are hopeful that the species can be removed from the endangered list eventually, allowing fishing to resume and alliances made with fishermen to help preserve the species.