First placed on the candidate list: 1985
Years waiting for protection: 19
Range: Arizona, New Mexico
Habitat: shaded pools and streams

An eight inch, torpedo-shaped fish, the Zuni bluehead sucker is endemic to shaded pools in the upper reaches of the Little Colorado and Zuni Rivers in western New Mexico and eastern Arizona. Feeding primarily on algae that it scrapes from rocks, the Zuni bluehead sucker was once a common inhabitant of streams originating in low mountains and dropping into arid grasslands of the Colorado Plateau. Now the fish is limited to less than 10 percent of its range. Although it has been listed as a candidate for protection under the Endangered Species Act since 1985, the Zuni bluehead sucker is still waiting for endangered species protection.

A multitude of human activities have collectively degraded water quality, quantity and survival opportunities for the Zuni bluehead sucker. Logging, road construction and livestock grazing have precipitated erosion that buries sucker eggs with sediment. The fish’s habitat has been further altered by dam construction, irrigation withdrawals, and the stocking of non-native fish.

No action has been taken since the sucker was listed as a candidate in 1985, and the declines have continued. Remaining populations are now largely isolated from each other, preventing genetic exchange. It is currently known to occupy just nine stream miles in four disjunct segments and the sucker may be completely gone from its namesake river.

graphic Andrew Rodman ©2002
May 3, 2004
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