OBJECT OF THE MONTH - October, 2004


Greenback cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki stomias), UCM#7049, collected in Roaring Creek, Colorado.

The trout of western North America represent one of the truly spectacular components of our fauna. These fishes belong to the genus Oncorhynchus (when translated from Latin, means "hooked snout") which comprises at least 22 species and subspecies. These taxa, including the widespread cutthroat and rainbow trout, extend from Alaska and northern Canada southward through the Rocky Mountains to Mexico. Members of this group require pristine habitats with cold, clean water and consequently are found inhabiting some of the most beautiful natural areas in the west.

While western trout have certainly provided cultural significance long before European colonization of North America, early detailed reports regarding these fishes are available from the writings of Lewis and Clark during from their famous expedition to find a navigable route to the Pacific Ocean. Although some species of western trout have maintained relatively large distributions since their scientific discovery, habitat loss and introduced species have contributed to the reduction of the range of these fishes in many areas.
Dr. Robert Behnke, an emeritus faculty member at Colorado State University and the leading authority on native western trout, recently donated a portion of his collection of trout to the University of Colorado Museum. These specimens represent an extremely important historical documentation of the distribution and taxonomy of native North American freshwater fishes. Collections of this type are critical to the understanding of our natural environment and provide important information regarding the future preservation of this valuable and wonderful resource.