Pupfish Numbers Rebound
The fall census of Devil's Hole pupfish indicates that the endangered species has more than doubled its population since the spring count, when just 38 fish were spotted. However, while the 85 they counted last weekend is encouraging, biologists say the fall census generally produces a higher number than the spring count. A better indicator of the species' health is how many pupfish survive the winter.
"We are encouraged with the increased number and it indicates the pupfish are successfully reproducing and recruiting in their natural environment," says Bob Williams, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife service official. "We are hopeful that a majority of adults observed will be able to persist over the winter and reproduce in the spring."
Devil's Hole is a part of Death Valley National Park, though it's located to the east of the park. During the count on September 23 divers reported that the hot spring seems to be in great shape for the pupfish. A breeding shelf located just below the water's surface has good algae growth, which is vital to the pupfish.
Meanwhile, Williams reports that the captive breeding program established early in the summer at Willow Beach National Fish Hatchery has produced four juvenile pupfish. That's not a big number, but it's better than none.