A lucky day for endangered fish at McDowell Mountain Regional Park
Mar 11, 2009

Friday the 13th will turn out to be a lucky day for two endangered fish at Maricopa County’s McDowell Mountain Regional Park, north of Fountain Hills.
  
Gila topminnow and desert pupfish will be reestablished by the Arizona Game and Fish Department and Maricopa County Parks and Recreation at the regional park as part of a Safe Harbor Agreement for topminnow and pupfish. This agreement allows non-federal landowners to participate in conservation and recovery efforts of these endangered species by providing habitat for establishing new populations.
  
More than hundred topminnow and several hundred pupfish will be released into the park’s Pemberton Pond. Topminnow from the Cottonwood Spring-lineage in southern Arizona will be used for the stocking. The pupfish for this release came from the Phoenix Zoo, Arizona State Park’s Boyce Thompson Arboretum, and National Wildlife Refuges along the Lower Colorado River, where captive populations of these native fishes are also maintained.
  
“Establishing new topminnow and pupfish populations at McDowell Mountain Regional Park will help us recover these important species, and provide us additional source fish for future reestablishment at other sites,” says Jeff Sorensen, native fish and invertebrate program manager for the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
  
This reestablishment is only the second stocking of topminnow and pupfish to occur as part of the Safe Harbor Agreement. The first occurred outside of Tucson.
  
“We're thrilled to be enhancing habitat and establishing endangered fish populations in a place where Valley residents can be a part of species recovery," said Steve Spangle, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Arizona field supervisor. "Hopefully, the County Park's project will encourage neighboring land owners and municipalities to partner with us to become endangered species stewards as well."
  
The reestablishment was carried out through a cooperative effort between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Game and Fish and Maricopa County Parks and Recreation.
  
"The park has prepared the pond for the endangered fish by making sure they have adequate shade and vegetation.  We’re working on placing educational signs around the pond so visitors may learn more about the native fish,” added Rand Hubbell, McDowell Mountain Regional Park supervisor.
  
Although once common throughout most of the Gila River basin, the Gila topminnow and desert pupfish now naturally occur in only a fraction of their historic range. 
  
Habitat loss, alteration and the introduction of non-native fishes have contributed to declines in natural populations of these two species. Both topminnow and pupfish are federally listed under the United States Endangered Species Act.
    
Gila topminnow and desert pupfish provide natural vector control, effectively preying on mosquito larvae and helping to control mosquito-borne illnesses. As native species, they pose fewer threats to other native species sharing the same habitat than non-native, mosquito-control species that have been introduced. 
  
The event is open to the public and included in the $6 per vehicle entry fee. McDowell Mountain Regional Park is located at 16300 McDowell Mountain Park Drive in Fountain Hills. For additional information on the park, visit www.maricopa.gov/parks/mcdowell. To learn more about the Gila topminnow or desert pupfish, visit www.azgfd.gov.