Red Canyon Ranch Fish Study

“Being able to work with The Nature Conservancy’s cattle management to implement our research has been critical.” 
Carl Saunders, Ph.D. student, Colorado State University

The old saying “You are what you eat,” goes for fish, too. What’s inside a trout’s belly says a lot about their health—and the quality of their streamside habitat.

That’s why Carl Saunders, a Ph.D. student at Colorado State University, is interested in what trout at the Conservancy’s Red Canyon Ranch are eating.

Saunders and a team of researchers spent the summer studying how cattle grazing management practices influence the abundance of grasshoppers and other insects dropping into the water for fish to eat.

Working mostly at night, the crew used electrofishing gear that temporarily stuns the fish and allows researchers to collect diet samples before releasing them back into streams.

Tools for Land Stewards

Early results indicate that fish in areas using short-duration grazing, a management approach practiced on Red Canyon Ranch, have three to five times more food in their bellies than those in areas with longer-duration grazing, which means bigger fish and higher reproductive rates.

The findings will help rangeland managers and ranchers establish grazing plans that sustain trout populations.

Additional Field Research Projects:

Absaroka Elk Study
Elk have always spent part of the year on the Conservancy's Heart Mountain Ranch. But recently elk migration patterns have changed, and the large mammals are taking up permanent residence around Heart Mountain.

A new study in partnership with the Wyoming Game & Fish Department and the University of Wyoming aims to find out why—and look into an unsettling future for elk competing with humans for habitat.

Conservation Easements and Sagebrush Health
A field crew of students and researchers from the University of Wyoming took a close look at the quality of sagebrush plants on private lands.

Conservancy scientists are conducting the study to determine if conservation easements—voluntary agreements with landowners that limit residential development—have an impact on sagebrush health.


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