In the war between Yellowstone cutthroat trout and their lake cousins, the cutthroat is decidedly coming off worse for the wear. According to National Geographic, lake trout first appeared in Yellowstone National Park during a 1993 survey and have been causing problems for their native neighbors ever since.
Bringing brawn, size, and longevity to the table, the lake trout has the cutthroat at a hefty disadvantage. The two fish are in direct competition for food and habitat and if that’s not enough, lake trout have a tendency to eat their smaller cousins.
While certainly tragic for the cutthroat and its fans, the lake trout’s strong-arm tactics could also spell disaster for the $34 million dollar industry that revolves around the native fish. Lake trout prefer deeper waters and provide an unappreciated challenge for anglers and commercial fishermen alike. It took an effort by the National Park Service to place deepwater nets in order to cull lake trout numbers, but this only served to slow their growth.
Lake trout are also endangering other animals higher up in the food chain who had previously relied on Yellowstone cutthroat as a food source. Otters, bears, ospreys, and even the majestic bald eagle have difficulty reach the deeper lake trout and have begun migrating away from the area.
Lake trout do well in other parts of the country where they are prized as a sport fish and food source.