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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes


Gila Trout Returned to Fire Damaged Areas

Region 2, December 3, 2012
Horse and Mule train
Horse and Mule train - Photo Credit: n/a
Mules with fish paniers
Mules with fish paniers - Photo Credit: n/a
Dry dusty conditions on the trail
Dry dusty conditions on the trail - Photo Credit: n/a

Following the large Whitewater/Baldy Fire this past spring both Gila trout, Main Diamond and South Diamond lineages were returned to the West Fork River inside the Gila National Wilderness. The Upper West Fork River was one of the areas most heavily impacted by the fire. The crew consisted of personnel from the New Mexico Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office, Mora National Fish Hatchery, New Mexico Game and Fish and the US Forest Service.


The substantial effort took 18 horses and mules provided by the NMFWCO and the USFS to stock the 3,000 Gila trout 18 miles deep inside the Gila wilderness.  Horses and mules carreid special paniers weighning 90 pounds each and capable of carrying seven gallons of water and seven pounds of fish.

Fish were stocked just below the falls on the West Fork of the Gila River. A site predetermined by the Gila Recovery Team. Sites were reached just before darkness and crews split up to spread stocking locations throughout the river. The fish were successfully returned to their native habitat and crews rode the last 1.5 miles in the dark to reach their campsite.

The trip lasted several days as the crews also spent time riding and surveying key habitat areas throughout the wilderness in order to assess post fire recovery. Instruments used to monitor and collect water quality data were installed as well as cameras to video and photograph the environmental effects from the fire. On the final day the rest of the monitoring devices were installed before the long ride out.

Contact Info: joaquin baca, 505 248-6471, joaquin_baca@fws.gov