As the state fish of New Mexico and an iconic western species native to the Rio Grande basin, the Rio Grande cutthroat is easily recognized by its red-orange gill plates, a greenback and distinct spotting.
The cutthroat trout is a species of critical importance not only to evolution and ecology of the desert southwest, but also to the continued cultural identity and recreation of the region. As a valued native sport fish, the Rio Grande cutthroat trout is limited to a relatively small range of isolated mountain streams that have severely restricted the fish’s population. Rio Grande cutthroat trout have been replaced by non-native trout, predominately Browns and Rainbows, in 90-95% of their historic range. Pure populations now only persist in about 75 small headwater streams.
New Mexico Department of Game and Fish models show that 86% of Rio Grande cutthroat trout populations are at extreme or high risk of wildfire and catastrophic debris flows. Special management areas have been proposed in the Carson and Rio Grande National Forests to help preserve and grow cutthroat populations.