With blasts of lightning and thunder late in dimming light, I reached the upper drainage of Cottonwood Creek, which is home to Pauite Cutthroat Trout, one of the rarest fish in North America (originally listed as endangered, but now has threatened status). See this PDF summary of Pauite Cutthroat Trout also.
The biggest threats to the survival of Paiute Cutthroat trout include, (1) alien trout which compete and hybridize with, and prey on, paiute cutthroats, (2) loss of genetic diversity, and (3) habitat loss. All populations are small and isolated, and therefore vulnerable, to illegal introductions of alien trout as well as to local natural and man-made disasters. The many unauthorized introductions of non-native trout are the single biggest threat to paiute cutthroat trout.
However, had it not been for the 1946 stocking of Paiutes into Cottonwood Creek and unauthorized introduced populations within silver King basin in Fly Valley and Four mile Creeks, the species might have been completely lost. Efforts by the California Department of Fish and Game, u.s. Fish and Wildlife service, and the u.s. Forest service to eradicate alien trout in lower silver King Creek with piscicides have been blocked by litigation.
Fishing in this drainage is off limits as a posted wooden sign makes clear at access to the creek out in the middle of the wilderness. See also the study of Paiut Cutthroat trout by Daryl Wong.
It was getting quite dark, but I quickly spotted two Paiutes, one about 3 inches longer than this one. I’ve previously seen dozens lower in the drainage.