Jump to Main Content
Humpback Chub (Gila cypha) Range Expansion in the Western Grand Canyon
- Rogowski, David L., Osterhoudt, Robin J., Mohn, Harrison E., Boyer, Jan K.
- Western North American naturalist 2018 v.78 no.1 pp. 26-38
- Gila cypha, endangered species, fish, monitoring, reproduction, rivers, streams, surveys, watersheds, Arizona, Colorado River, Lake Mead
- The Colorado River in the Grand Canyon holds the largest remaining population of Humpback Chub Gila cypha, an endangered fish endemic to the Colorado River basin. Early surveys in the 1990s found that most Humpback Chub occupied the Little Colorado River and nearby areas in the mainstem Colorado River and were uncommon in the western Grand Canyon (below Kanab Creek, at river kilometer [rkm] 257.2). From 1939 to 2002, the Colorado River was typically inundated by Lake Mead to rkm 407 (at full pool). Since 2000, Lake Mead water levels have declined, and the current inflow is located almost 100 km downstream at rkm 503.1. Thus, the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD) extended its system-wide monitoring downstream to Pearce Ferry rapid (rkm 478.6) in 2011. Electrofishing is relatively inefficient at capturing Humpback Chub, but a small number of captures from 2011 to 2015 in the western Grand Canyon suggested that the Humpback Chub may have expanded its range downstream. Subsequently, hoop nets were added to AGFD system-wide monitoring in 2016 to better describe Humpback Chub distribution. The distribution of Humpback Chub observed in 2016 and 2017 differed from previous descriptions; we documented relatively large numbers of Humpback Chub, including age-0 fish, in the western Grand Canyon and observed the highest catches downstream of Diamond Creek (rkm 389.1). This suggests that a recent range expansion has occurred and that Humpback Chub in the western Grand Canyon do not utilize the Little Colorado River for reproduction and might therefore constitute a new subpopulation.