On a recent visit to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, I was confronted with a strange sight: A beautiful grizzly bear, paw outstretched in anticipation, staring intently into a pond swimming with huge trout.
I call it strange because these weren't just any trout. The sign identified them as greenback cutthroat trout — a threatened species that will almost surely be re-listed as endangered due to recent scientific findings.
Yet, here sat this bear, apparently ready to consume the rarest of dinners.
Concerned, I called the Zoo's Erica Meyer. Meyer explained that the trout in question are hybrids, not purebloods like the ones in Bear Creek. Greenbacks are so rare that the federal government monitors even the hybrids and puts limits on how many can be fished.
But the government provides the farm-raised fish to the zoo, which operates on a permit, and must send annual reports about the fish's well being.
Surprisingly, Meyer says the zoo has not needed to replenish its stock of the fish since 2010.
“Our grizzlies — they’re very well fed," she says. "They sometimes try to catch the fish, but they’re not always successful.”