Wednesday May 24, 2023

Bureau of Land Management

Aravaipa and Bonita Creeks are unique aquatic systems in southern Arizona as they still support intact or nearly intact native fish communities. Bonita Creek is located within the Gila Box Riparian National Conservation Area and is characterized by deep pools, undercut banks, and woody debris from beavers. Aravaipa Creek flows for 17 miles, including 10 miles through the Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness, where cliffs tower over 1,000 feet high and aquatic habitat is comprised of pools, riffles, glides, and runs.       

Bonita Creek is home to many native fishes, including federally endangered Gila chub (Gila intermedia) and Gila topminnow (Poeciliopsis occidentalis), longfin dace (Agosia chrysogaster), speckled dace (Rhinichthys osculus), desert sucker (Pantosteus clarkii), and Sonora sucker (Catostomus insignis). Aravaipa Creek is equally diverse, with federally endangered loach minnow (Tiaroga cobitis) and spikedace (Meda fulgida), speckled and longfin dace, desert and Sonora sucker, and roundtail chub (Gila robusta). 

Introduced non-native fish species invaded and established self-sustaining populations in both creeks. Non-native fish species pose a significant threat to the survival of the native fish. Non-natives include western mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis), fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas), yellow bullhead (Ameiurus natalis), and green sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus) for Bonita Creek and the latter two non-natives and red shiner (Cyprinella lutrensis) in Aravaipa Creek. The green sunfish, which is native to eastern North America, is of particular interest and concern as this species feeds aggressively on other fishes and was deemed by fish biologists as the most significant threat to native fishes in both creeks. Green sunfish were first detected in Aravaipa Creek in 1963 and have resided there for over 50 years. It is unknown when green sunfish first appeared in Bonita Creek. The native fishes in both Aravaipa and Bonita creeks have thus faced direct competition for food and habitat and have been preyed upon by green sunfish and other non-native fish species for years.  

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