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Southern Nevada Water Authority

Survey shows continued improvement for endangered Moapa dace population

Moapa dace

A recent survey shows the Moapa dace
population is on the rise.

A recent survey conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), in cooperation with the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) and Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW), shows continued improvement in the population of Moapa dace, a tiny, endangered fish found only in the headwaters of the Muddy River in northeast Clark County, Nevada.

The August 2013 survey turned up 1,727 Moapa dace, up from the 1,226 fish counted in a survey conducted last February. The population count is almost quadruple the 459 fish found in February 2008, when the population reached an all-time low since surveys began in 1994.

Biologists from the SNWA, NDOW and USFWS conducted the snorkel survey of 17 stream reaches located on the Warm Springs Natural Area, Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge and private land. The system of springs that feed the Muddy River flows to Lake Mead.

Listed in 1967 under the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966, Moapa dace are endemic to the warm waters of the upper Muddy River. They live nowhere else on earth. These fish begin their lives in the area’s warm spring outflows and move to cooler water downstream as adults; adult Moapa dace return to the warm springs to reproduce.

The SNWA, USFWS, and NDOW survey the Warm Springs area twice each year, in February and August. Moapa dace populations tend to vary thorough the year and traditionally are higher in summer months.

A USFWS recovery plan for the Moapa dace set delisting goals at 6,000 adult fish in five spring systems for five consecutive years, restoration of 75 percent of historic habitat, and effective control of non-native, invasive fish.

To achieve those goals the SNWA, acting as steward for the Warm Springs Natural Area, works with its partners to install non-native fish barriers, eradicate exotic species, restore natural stream flow dynamics and riparian vegetation, and improve connectivity between springs and streams.

The SNWA acquired the 1,220-acre Warm Springs Natural Area, about 60 miles northeast of Las Vegas, in September 2007. The SNWA recognizes the Moapa dace as a key species in its management of water resources in the Muddy River and Coyote Spring Valley due to the fish’s ties to the deep carbonate aquifer and its limited distribution.

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