Meristic Counts for O. c. alvordensis: Alvord cutthroat trout

RE:Dr. Behnke’s analysis of museum specimens of the original Hubbs’ collection from the Alvord Basin:


Specimens had 25-50 spots, all above the lateral line – except as they drop along the caudal peduncle.

Alvordensis had a pyloric caeca count of 35-50 (mean 42) – Lahontans are 40 to 75 (mean 50).

Original samples had a lateral series scale count of 125-150  vs. 150 to 180 for Lahontan cutthroat.

Avg. gill rakers: 23 alvordensis, 24 henshawi, 21.5 humboldtensis.  The lowest Alvord count was 20.

Whitehorse Creek Humboltensis avg. 142 lateral series scales, from Willow Creek they average 152 L.s.s.

Phenotypical Oncorhynchus clarki alvordensis Illustrations by Patrick Trotter

Hand Held phenotypical Alvord cutthroat trout

Hand-held phenotypical Alvord cutthroat trout. Behind reflection; approximately 25 spots on left-side - all above the lateral-line and in front of the caudal peduncle (about 15 more above the lateral line ON the caudal peduncle)

Phenotypical Alvord cutthroat trout in photoarium

Phenotypical Alvord cutthroat trout in photoarium with approximately 25 spots on left-side, above the lateral-line, in front of the caudal peduncle (would be more spots if the stacking on the caudal peduncle is included).

From: David & Carmela Kortum
Sent: Thursday, November 26, 2009 11:16 PM
To: ‘Daniel Line’
Subject: RE: Alvord trout


Thanks for the email, and for the photos.  Sorry for the time involved for our reply… between work, domestic and other responsibilities, time has been quite constrained.

Since spring of 2008 we’ve been pursuing alvordensis from ***** Creek.  Certainly there are trout presenting the Alvord phenotype as noted by Dr. Behnke, and Dr. Behnke’s desire to preserve and restore (at least) the phenotype is at the top of our priority list as well.  ODFW has dealt with a few of our questions, and given a general overview of what might be involved in a restoration project for alvordensis.  We’ve received input from other biologists and scientists as well.

A number of challenges have presented themselves along the way:  Even the trout taken in the 80’s (which Joe used the preserved samples at BYU as a basis for his illustrations) were hybridized.  Currently there is not a genetic baseline to verify the identity of alvordensis, though genetic scientists are considering way(s) to resolve this dilemma.  ODFW personnel changes have also caused a bit of a “reset,” as to the timeline of a proposed project

At this point there really hasn’t been a comprehensive meristic analysis of the trout from ***** Creek presenting the Alvord phenotype. (The only trout that have been analyzed in detail have been three fishing casualties from the past two years.  Two of these would not have been considered as remnant alvordensis by almost any standard.  One did meet the overall appearance and general spotting pattern of alvordensis—and most of the other meristic character details as well.)

Meristic character counts (beyond spotting and coloration: scale, gill raker and pyloric caeca counts) are considered diagnostic as to the identity of the trout.  The meristic notations by Hubbs and Miller of alvordensis in the early 1900’s provide what may be the most accurate meristic pattern to look for. Even the beautiful illustration that Joe made is somewhat divergent from the earliest descriptions.  A process to complete meristic counts (if possible, scale and gill raker counts) without having to anesthetize or injure any trout would be helpful.

These and other details are being worked through to come to a consensus of the most expedient methodologies to verify the details of the ***** population.  Dr. Behnke advises not to be too concerned over pure genetics of the population, considering the phenotype adequate for a preservation and restoration project (and we personally agree).  Yet to secure the financial and technical support of the controlling agencies, it is essentially vital to establish scientifically valid identification and verification of the species.  “Phase two” would then be the actual implementation of a preservation and restoration project for the Alvord cutthroat trout.

In an ideal world things might be simpler than they evidently are.  ODFW holds the keys to any permits to be issued for scientific studies or restoration projects, and any funding requests via the Western Native Trout Initiative will of necessity have to come through them also (as a member organization).  There is protocol for bringing such a project together.  New ODFW personnel that would be primarily responsible for such a project at ***** Creek (including granting permits and requesting funds) should be in their new position before too much more time passes.  We anticipate having fruitful communication with them at that time.

We appreciate your shared interest.  At some juncture, it may be that your blogs (along with enthusiastic endorsement from TU and other organizations) may be vehicles to encourage action within the controlling govt. agencies.  Public sentiment can have an impact on their “action-item” priorities.   It would seem inevitable to us, that a genetic “time clock” has been ticking in ***** Creek for quite some time, and each year that passes lessens the prospect to protect, preserve and restore what certainly appears to be a remnant alvordensis population.

We will keep you posted as to progress and updates.  Please feel free to pose any questions or thoughts.


David and Carmela Kortum


—–Original Message—–
From: Daniel Line
Sent:Thursday, November 12, 20097:07 AM
To: kortumofdiscovery
Subject: FW: Alvord trout

David and Carmela

My name is Dan Line.  My friends Scott Carles and Gary Marston
have been fishing ***** and are very interested in whether or not
there are “Alvord” type fish in the creek.
We have been communicating with Behnke, Tomelleri and Trotter
on the subject.
Here is some of our communication and information on our trips
including observations, pictures and maps (below).  Hope this is helpful
to you as you try to preserve these “Alvord” types in *****.  I really
hope something can be done…please keep us posted and let us
know what we can do to help.
I also attached a picture comparison with photos of Alvord from *****
Creek and Tomelleri’s illustrations.  Looks eerily close doesn’t it?
All the best!

Dan Line

From: Daniel Line
Wednesday, November 11, 20099:04 AM
To: Patrick Trotter

Subject: Alvord trout


My name is Dan Line.  My friend Scott Carles and I have been staying in
touch with Robert and Joe regarding the Alvord trout.
Joe said you did some testing and it was inclusive the most part as far as
Alvords go on the fish you sampled from ***** Creek.
I was wondering if you had pictures of the fish you sampled from *****.
We fished there in June and found Lahontan “type” trout (I guess they are
Willow-Whitehorse from your testing) and then some other fish which
don’t look at all like Lahontans and more like Alvords.
Here is the report we sent to Robert and I have attached some photo comparisons
of Joe’s illustrations of Alvords with those of fish caught on *****.
Keep me posted on your studies and where everything is headed.  Hope that
population of Alvord type fish can be preserved and maybe transplanted in a few
other streams.  We would definitely be interested in helping any project which
come to fruition on ***** with the “Alvords”.


Dan Line

Mr. Behnke

Dan here.  We made it on our trip to *****.  It was a wonderful experience.  (We camped at Rock Creek and caught over 100 redbands)  We were impressed by the fish in *****.  It is apparent that not all the fish are Lahontans…but Alvord type trout as well.  As you mentioned, what degree of pure Alvord trout remain is unknown, but due to the many hybrid type fish and characteristics, probably not a pure population.  It is exciting to see that there are many pure looking Alvords.  Both Scott, Gary and myself really would like to see something done to preserve what is left of this population.

You mentioned the creek is in good shape, but who knows when a natural or manmade disasters may change things.  Let us of know of any progress towards conservation of this stock and if we may be of any assistance or be involved in any efforts to relocate some fish to start a new “Alvord” population.

Our trip to the Jarbidge River was fun, lots of redbands, but no bull trout.  We fished the west fork and Pine Creek.

Pictures of fish caught on ***** Creek can be found here: (Photobucket) The pictures are in four albums. Each album is labeled as the year caught and the photographer’s name. Within each album, the fish have been labeled (based on the strongest visual characteristics) as follows:
A = Alvord
L = Lahontan
H = Hybrid

The number indicates a different fish. A letter after the number indicates a different picture of the same fish. Hence, A2c = the third picture (c) of the 2nd (2) Alvord (A).

Field notes:

Scott, Gary and Dan all went together on the 2009 trip on June 30th.
-we fished approximately from 11:00am-4:00pm -a few were caught below -most of the Alvords were caught above the mesa narrows: (map of fishing location) Scott’s blog write-up: (
Another person who fished ***** successfully in early June was Dave De Ruysscher:
—–Original Message—–
From: Robert Behnke
Sent: Thu 1/8/2009 1:26 PM
To: Daniel Line
Subject: Re: cutthroat trip

Thanks for photos comparing ***** Creek trout with Joe’s illustration of alvordensis.  I found a strong resemblance between the trout of ***** Creek and specimens of the extinct Alvord cutthroat.  ***** Creek had a long history of stocking–Willow-Whitehorse trout, Lahontan cutts (henshawi) and rainbows so I doubt they are completely pure alvordensis.  It would be relatively simple to select ***** trout that best resemble alvordensis and transplant them to a fishless stream.  Unfortunately, all to the streams draining to the Alvord Lake bed on the east slope of Sterns Mountain that can support trout have been stocked with Willow-Whitehorse trout.  The ***** watershed is in good shape.  Former livestock impacts have been eliminated and there are abundant springs to maintain flow.  If no further introductions are made, the present population should be secure. Last year, Pat Trotter and I officially named the Humboldt cutt as O. c. humboldtensis in the Western Naturalist (formerly Great Basin Nat.).  The Willow-Whitehorse trout was included as humboldtensis as well as the cutthroat native to upper Quinn River drainage.  If you compile notes 2nd photo on the native trout caught on your 2009 expedition, I would appreciate this information.                      Bob Behnke

About kortumofdiscovery

Kortum of Discovery (a slight play on Lewis & Clark's Corps of Discovery) is a family team that is Affirming the Exceptional Beauty of Nature, one Adventure at a Time. With a focus toward rare and endangered species in the Great Basin and American west: discoveries, unique methodologies, and many “tall tales to tell” are continually being shared around the campfire!
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One Response to Meristic Counts for O. c. alvordensis: Alvord cutthroat trout

  1. Pingback: The End of the Innocence? — Or the Beginning of an Answer? | Alvord Cutthroat Trout — Phenotype       Remnant Rescue‎ | ‎Restoration Précis

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