The razorback sucker is a large, bronze to yellow fish that grows to a weight of about 15 pounds and has a sharp-edged keel behind the head. Breeding males turn gray-black with a bright orange belly.
Range: Originally widespread in the Colorado River system, wild populations were reduced to a small number of individuals in the Yampa, Colorado and Gunnison rivers in Colorado. Reproducing populations remain only in the middle Green River in Utah and in an off-channel pond in the Colorado River near Grand Junction. The razorback is most often found in quiet, muddy backwaters along the river.
Habitat: razorbacks are found in deep, clear to turbid waters of large rivers and some reservoirs over mud, sand or gravel.
Diet: Like most suckers, the razorback feeds on both plant and animal matter.
Reproduction: The razorback sucker spawns in the spring. Breeding males turn black up to the lateral line, with brilliant orange extending across the belly.
Endangered status: The razorback sucker is listed as endangered federally and in Colorado. Loss of large flood plain habitat and non-native fish predation are believed to be primary factors in the decline of this species. Since the monitoring program began in 1978, significant survival of young razorbacks into adulthood has not been documented. Restoration stocking of razorback is occurring in the Green, Colorado, Gunnison and San Juan rivers to develop and augment adult populations. Restoration of flooded bottomland habitats and non-native fish control are being conducted hand-in-hand to provide suitable nursery habitats for young razorback suckers.
For more information, see the Natural Diversity Information Source species profile.