To Save an Extinct Species — from Extinction


Of course, as the title implies, that has been the dilemma (an oxymoron) and difficulty from the very beginning with this remnant of phenotypical Alvord cutthroat trout . . .

Since the species is already considered extinct, it seems that the impetus for action is on a thin thread; without the backing of the ESA or such Federal support; since, after all, they already are considered extinct . . .

Yet, does that mean that the remnant of trout bearing the phenotype of the Alvord cutthroat trout should be neglected as “second class citizens” or treated as an incidental consideration where trout recovery and restoration projects are concerned?

Dr. Robert Behnke, Patrick Trotter and Joseph Tomelleri; among the most knowledgeable of Biologists, Research Scientists and Scientific Illustrators where Alvord cutthroat trout are concerned; have each invested notable effort in communication and support to help strategize, to document, and fundamentally to assist —in whatever manner possible— the effort to preserve and restore the phenotype (physical characteristics) of a relict remnant of trout that still express the outward physical appearance of the Alvord cutthroat trout.

And to her credit, Shannon Hurn, ODFW Fish Biologist for SE Oregon, has successfully captured trout bearing the Alvord cutthroat trout phenotype, and has preserved trout for hatchery propagation, and hopeful preservation and restoration, into a suitable stream that is within the original native domain of the now considered extinct Alvord cutthroat trout.

And that, will hopefully be the nucleus, the inception, of a success story that will truly mark a new chapter —a distinct chapter— in trout preservation and species restoration.


Part of the reason I say “nucleus,” and “inception,” is because it has seemed fairly evident that this project will necessitate more patience, and more effort, and more resilience than we might have hoped or desired or expected in the beginning.

Though we believe that it is a victory — and should be rejoiced-in as such — that we have baby trout in a SE Oregon hatchery that are derived from phenotypical Alvord cutthroat trout “parents” . . . it is evident to this author that it will be advisable, recommendable, or something to encourage; that additional trout be taken in subsequent years, and that the genetic pool for this nucleus of phenotypical Alvord cutthroat trout be strengthened . . .

Part of the reason I say that is due to the seemingly diminutive number of survivors from the single female Alvord phenotype that was successfully taken from the stream (out of about a dozen or so specimens taken with Alvord characteristics; just one was a female).

So, we have an “Eve” of the Alvord cutthroat trout characteristics.  And, if there is only one female, then — so be it.  But, it seems to this author that finding another female or two (or three or four) would be a positive way to round-out the genetic composition for this truly fragile remnant of trout currently in a small container near Old Fort Klamath.

While it is true, that we have seen over the years that the genetics seem to be dominant more-so in the males, than the females; yet there still have to be a few good phenotypical Alvord females to be found in the system.


Remant a Month Later Section of Screen Still So Tiny Taking on Characteristics Corner of the Screen Dispersed Little Trout End of the Screen IMG_2639 Over View


These photos, taken a month after the first set of “baby Alvord” photos were taken, show that the trout have grown just a little since the first sets of photos, and sadly the numbers are notably fewer than they were just a month earlier.

If the viewer looks carefully, there will be several casualties visible in these photographs.

Though hatchery personnel gave a hopeful expectation that there are still 250 / 300 trout yet remaining, a cursory glance would indicate that the numbers are probably below that hopeful projection, and with continuing mortality the numbers may be very sadly limited.


That said, again it is a victory to have any phenotypical Alvord cutthroat trout alive today, since they are considered extinct.

Now —perhaps more than everas we have done in the past; we would encourage native trout enthusiasts to write letters of encouragement to Shannon Hurn; — to encourage her that even if it requires more trout to be captured from the stream and to be propagated in future years (in order to develop the brood stock essential to perpetuate the phenotype); that the effort would/will be worth it to write a new chapter into the history books and to have pioneered a new way to essentially save an extinct species of trout—from extinction.

Please write notes of support and encouragement to:

Shannon Hurn; ODFW District Office, 237 Highway 20 South/PO #8, Hines, OR 97738

(Special thanks to those who take time to encourage Shannon in this special endeavor.)

© Kortum of Discovery   August 2013


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!
This entry was posted in ***** Creek Sampling, Fisheries Biology and Genetics, Observations, Photo Journals, Progress - Reply - Response - Status. Bookmark the permalink.

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