How we're working to save them:
- Conduct follow-up monitoring of reintroduction efforts for at least three years to determine progress of hybrid removal, restoration activities, and re-colonization of historical habitat by Paiute Cutthroats.
- Prepare and implement a long term conservation strategy with CDFW, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, academics, and other stakeholders to adaptively manage future recovery efforts.
- Continue to monitor existing populations to determine progress of restoration activities and re-colonization of historical habitat.
Click here to learn about CalTrout’s overall “Return to Resilience” plan to save California’s salmonids from extinction.
Where to find Paiute Cutthroat Trout:
Paiute Cutthroat Trout Distribution
Paiute Cutthroat trout are native only to Silver King Creek, a tributary of the East Fork Carson River located at an elevation of about 2,400 m (about 7,900 ft.) in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness in Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest (Alpine Co.). Five pure populations of PCT exist in Coyote Valley, Corral Valley, Four Mile Canyon, and Upper Silver King creeks upstream of a historical barrier at Llewellyn Falls. Many introductions of Paiute Cutthroat have been attempted outside the species’ native range over the last six decades, though only Cottonwood and Cabin creeks (Mono Co.), Stairway Creek (Madera Co.), and Sharktooth Creek (Fresno Co.) have self-sustaining populations. There are no known populations of lake-dwelling Paiute Cutthroat trout in California.
How the Paiute Cutthroat Trout Scored:
Paiute Cutthroat trout have very few spots above the lateral line, and iridescent copper, green, or pink body coloration. All Paiute Cutthroat have a red-orange slash under the jaw for which they are named, and retain parr marks into adulthood. They rarely reach more than about 25 cm (10 in.) in length owing to the high elevation, low productivity streams they inhabit. The largest PCT was captured in a lake outside its native range, and measured 46 cm (18 in.) long and weighed 1.1 kg (about 2.4 lbs.). The native habitat of this species is the smallest of any known salmonid in North America, making them the rarest trout species on Earth. They nearly went extinct due to hybridization with non-native trout, but Joe Jaunsaras, a Basque herdsman, began transferring fish in 1912 above a natural barrier at Llewellyn Falls, saving the species.
Paiute Cutthroat trout populations likely declined in the last three years due to reduced streamflows in summer and anchor ice in winter resulting from drought. Remaining populations are small, isolated by barriers and cannot interbreed. Nine streams currently support small (400 to 700 fish each) but stable populations of pure Paiute Cutthroat trout.
Habitat & Behavior
Paiute Cutthroat trout life expectancy is about 3-4 years in the wild, although some individuals may live up to 6 years. They mature at 2 years of age, and only have the potential to successfully spawn two or three times over their lifespan. Spawning takes place in July, and eggs hatch in August and September. They rarely migrate very far from where they were reared or introduced. Adult Paiute Cutthroats are territorial, defending their established territories in desirable pool habitat from others. Deeper pool habitat and overhanging vegetation provide important refuge and overwintering areas for this species.
The Paiute Cutthroat trout is very closely related to the Lahontan Cutthroat trout, and is the least genetically diverse trout species of trout in California. Today, populations of Paiute Cutthroats share the most genetic material with Lahontan Cutthroat trout from Independence Lake (Nevada Co.), as opposed to Lahontan Cutthroat populations found just downstream in the Carson River.