Friday, March 1, 2013

Well this is weird: Threatened fish housed with grizzlies at the zoo?

Posted By on Fri, Mar 1, 2013 at 2:51 PM

The Cheyenne Mountain bears: Cute, but not the best at fishing.

On a recent visit to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, I was confronted with a strange sight: A beautiful grizzly bear, paw outstretched in anticipation, staring intently into a pond swimming with huge trout.

I call it strange because these weren't just any trout. The sign identified them as greenback cutthroat trout — a threatened species that will almost surely be re-listed as endangered due to recent scientific findings.

The only population of greenback cutthroat trout in the wild lives in a small section of Bear Creek. I actually wrote a cover story about the controversy caused by this fish in October.

Yet, here sat this bear, apparently ready to consume the rarest of dinners.

Concerned, I called the Zoo's Erica Meyer. Meyer explained that the trout in question are hybrids, not purebloods like the ones in Bear Creek. Greenbacks are so rare that the federal government monitors even the hybrids and puts limits on how many can be fished.

But the government provides the farm-raised fish to the zoo, which operates on a permit, and must send annual reports about the fish's well being.

Surprisingly, Meyer says the zoo has not needed to replenish its stock of the fish since 2010.

“Our grizzlies — they’re very well fed," she says. "They sometimes try to catch the fish, but they’re not always successful.”

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