Devils Hole pupfish population hits 19-year high in Nevada

Good news for one of the world’s rarest fish: authorities have announced a tally of 263 Devils Hole pupfish in their little cave in Nevada, the highest number they’ve seen in 19 years.

The count was made after a 7.6 earthquake in Mexico ‘dropped’ around the small area on September 19. Scientists used dive and surface counters.

Count pupfish in the shallow end of the Devils Hole plateau. (Death Valley Natural History Association/Kendra DeSomma)

The critically endangered fish live in the top 80 feet of a cave filled with deep water, making them the smallest range of any vertebrate species on the planet, officials say. The area is an isolated unit of Death Valley National Park, near Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Nye County.

The number is seasonal and the highest since September 2003. Decades ago the number was around 400 to 500 in the fall.

Kevin Wilson, aquatic ecologist for Death Valley National Park, manages resources at Devils Hole, and said in a press release that “recent high counts in the spring and fall show the importance of keeping data at term as we work to find out what has changed.”

This week’s tally continues an overall increase in the fall over the past nine years from an all-time low of 35 fish, officials said.

Right: Divers about to descend Devils Hole to count pupfish. (National Park Service)

“It’s exciting to see the numbers gradually increasing over the past few years,” said Michael Schwemm, senior fish biologist for the US Fish and Wildlife Service. “The current trend, particularly in this highly variable population, clearly shows that habitat conditions have changed in a good way since lower numbers matter, and we are excited about future directions for research and recovery. .

The next count is scheduled for the spring.