Holloman protects native fish

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Heather Stanton
  • 49th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Holloman protects one of four populations of the only fish native to the Tularosa Basin. 

The Whites Sands pupfish is listed as threatened in the state of New Mexico, said Ms. Jeanne Dye, 49th Civil Engineer Squadron environmental flight. A species is threatened if it is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all, or a significant portion of, its range. 

"CE environmental monitors them in the wild and prevents them from being listed as endangered," said 1st Lt. Daniel Camacho, 49 CES environmental. "That listing would make a lot more work for Holloman and could impact the mission." 

To protect the fish, Holloman is working with White Sands Missile Range, White Sands National Monument, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said Ms. Dye. The team has set buffer zones around each habitat where no activity, such as off-roading, can take place. 

The White Sands pupfish can have thousands living in a small area because they grow to be only two-and-a-half inches long, said Ms. Dye. 

"The pupfish has evolved to be specialized in its habitat," said Ms. Dye. "They have survived in the harsh desert environment. From temperatures below freezing in the winter to over 100 degrees in the summer." 

The small fish has also adapted to the water in the Tularosa Basin because it can live in the varying salinity levels, said Ms. Dye. When a fresh rain falls, the water has a low salinity level, but as the water dries up, the level can be two to three times that of ocean salt water. 

The pupfish feasts on plants, algae, insects, insect larvae, including mosquito larvae, which also helps cut that particular pest population down, said Ms. Dye. 

Holloman has been protecting the small White Sands pupfish for more than 20 years and Airmen can help continue protecting them by not going off-roading in their all-terrain vehicles or four-wheel drive trucks in any place other than the designated track.