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Endangered Fish is Back in the Canyons After 20 Years

Jun 19, 2014 03:39 PM EDT

Razorback suckers have been found spawning within Grand Canyon National Park, bringing this extremely endangered species back to the area after more than two decades.

The Department of the Interior (DoI) announced Wednesday that researchers have discovered that the endangered razorback sucker fish has returned to the lower Colorado River within Grand Canyon National Park.

The department assured residents in the local area on Twitter that despite their name, razorbacks are relatively harmless fish characterized by the high sharp-edged hump behind their head.

Researchers first noticed adult fish in the waters on April 14. After finding several larval (young) razorbacks throughout the canyon at later dates, they concluded that their numbers might be enough to repopulate the region, which hasn't seen the fish since the 1990s.

"Razorback suckers continue to surprise us in Grand Canyon, first with the discovery of adults after 20 years of absence, and now with spawning within the park," Brian Healy, fisheries program manager for the national park, said in a statement. "We're all hoping to see evidence that these larval fish survive to adulthood in the coming years."

According to the DoI, razorback suckers are long-lived fish, living 40 years or more and reaching a maximum length of 36 inches.

Back in March, the National Park Service and Bureau of Reclamation successfully released nine adult razorbacks into the Colorado River just downstream of Lava Falls. At the time, they had been unsure if the fish would be able to acclimate to waters their species hasn't seen in decades.

Clearly the acclimation went swimmingly, with Dave Uberuaga, Superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park, thrilled about the results.

"I'm proud to see that Grand Canyon provides habitat once again for this unique species... and I'm committed to working with our cooperators to continue native fish conservation efforts within the park," he said.

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