Wetlands light trap nurses razorback larvae

A photo of what is believed to be a razorback sucker larvae. Photo courtesy of Zach Ahrens, DWR

The endangered razorback sucker is getting a boost from efforts to sustain its larvae. According to a report from The Nature Conservancy, larval light trapping in the newly excavated Matheson Preserve inlet channel began to yield fish larvae on the night of May 9.

This is the new larval light-trapping device recently built at the Matheson Wetlands Preserve operated by The Nature Conservancy and Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. Photo courtesy of Zach Ahrens, DWR

“With expert help, we’ve tentatively identified some larvae collected in the subsequent week as razorback suckers,” said a statement from the organization. Zach Ahrens at the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has been able to identify razorback sucker larvae in the inlet.

Infrastructure improvements are still underway at the TNC’s Matheson Wetlands Preserve. “Our temporary stop-log “gate” system is an imperfect barrier which essentially slows water moving between the river and wetland pond. Thus we don’t have the ability to ‘stage’ water and larvae in the inlet channel and then ‘flush’ into the wetland by opening a gate,” said Ahrens, native aquatics biologist.

Two members of the monitoring team stand on a stop-log “gate” system that slows the water moving between the river and the wetland pond. Photo courtesy of Zach Ahrens, DWR

“So far we have more promising results: sucker larvae (some of which I believe are razorbacks) were collected this week, inland of our temporary screen,” said Ahrens in a June 3 statement. “Granted, these are preliminary IDs of a small fraction of the larvae from our samples. Most remain unidentified. At this point our limited expertise in larval identification doesn’t facilitate rigorous, real-time evaluation of RZ relative abundance.” However, he said staff members who have been monitoring the site believe the wetland augmentation “appears to be working as desired in some capacity.”

Added Ahrens, “Thanks to everyone for continued support and interest in this project. And special thanks to Bruce Haines, Kevin Bestgen, Sean Seal and Mike Farrington for crucial help with preliminary identification.”