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[APD] Scientists Nudge Fish Closer to Extinction

Scientists Nudge Fish Closer to Extinction

Published: June 7, 2005

Filed at 9:43 p.m. ET

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Scientists trying to study the
endangered Devils Hole pupfish near Death Valley
inadvertently nudged the endangered fish closer to

About 80 of the inch-long silvery pupfish died in
traps set last year in Devils Hole, a limestone cavern
about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, National Park
Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service scientists
said Monday.

The total killed could be a third or more of the adult
fish left alive in the wild, officials told The Las
Vegas Sun in a report Tuesday.

''It was a very tragic occurrence, one that we never
thought would happen,'' said Linda Greene, chief of
resource management for Death Valley National Park.

The traps, which were chained to the top of the hole,
were designed to count young fish larva but instead
trapped the adult pupfish.

They were dislodged in flash floods that occurred
Sept. 11 throughout the desert area that includes
Devils Hole, Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge and
Death Valley.

''The irony was not lost on us,'' Greene said.

Only 180 Devils Hole pupfish were counted in 2003.
When the number of adult fish drops below 100,
scientists consider the possibility that the pupfish
may not survive.

Scientists and conservationists have been fighting to
save the pupfish for decades. In the mid-20th century,
springs forming Ash Meadows were used to water farms
that grew cotton, melons, fruit and nut trees.

Farmers pumping ground water onto those fertile fields
visibly lowered the water level in Devils Hole.

The Devils Hole pupfish was given endangered species
status and, after a long court battle in the 1970s,
the water it needs to survive. 

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