The continued efforts of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners appear to be benefitting the Moapa dace. The small endangered fish is found only in the Warm Springs area of the Moapa Valley in southern Nevada.
Biologists conducting a snorkel survey in the Muddy River system during the first week of August 2020 counted 2,342 Moapa dace. The total represents an increase of nearly 78 percent over the number of dace found in August 2019 (1,317 fish). This is the first time since August 2015 that the Moapa dace population topped 2,000 fish.
“The recent population count is very encouraging, said Glen Knowles, field supervisor for the Service’s Southern Nevada Fish and Wildlife Office. We are especially happy about the increases in the population in the system outside the boundary of the Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge.”
Knowles acknowledged the efforts of the Service’s partners in helping the dace recover, including the Bureau of Land Management, Nevada Department of Wildlife, Southern Nevada Water Authority, U.S. Geological Survey, Moapa Band of Paiutes, Moapa Valley Water District, Clark County Desert Conservation Program, the Nature Conservancy, NVEnergy, Coyote Springs LLC, and local landowners. They work with the Service to protect and restore habitat for the fish, while also controlling threats from non-native species.
“Not only did we observe more dace this year, we found them in areas of the Muddy River they have not inhabited for many years,” said David Syzdek, environmental biologist for the Southern Nevada Water Authority. “We started habitat restoration efforts at the Warm Springs Natural Area in 2008, when there were fewer than 500 dace in the streams. While we still have more work to do with our state and federal partners, this most recent survey appears to indicate that the dace are responding positively to our coordinated efforts.”
The Moapa dace is endemic to the thermal springs and streams that form the headwaters of the Muddy River. The 116-acre Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge is part of the Service’s Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex.
“While restoration on the wildlife refuge ensures healthy breeding habitat for the dace, the additional restored habitat off of the refuge and the elimination of non-native competitor and predatory fish gives the dace more of a fighting chance, said Desert NWR Complex Manager Kevin DesRoberts. Recovery for the Moapa dace cannot be accomplished without the help of the Service’s partners.”
Full recovery of the species is still a long way off. The Moapa dace will be considered fully recovered when the fish’s sustained population reaches a minimum of 6,000 over a period of five consecutive years.
Located at 4001 W. Warm Springs Road in Moapa, the Moapa Valley NWR was the first wildlife refuge established specifically for an endangered fish. The refuge was created in 1979 to secure habitat for and protect the endangered Moapa dace. In addition to spring and channel restoration efforts, re-vegetation with native plants, removing non-native species, and enhancing stream flows have benefited the Moapa dace and other species found only on the wildlife refuge.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information about our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov/cno/ or connect with us via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr.