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Rusty Crayfish

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Rusty crayfish
Rusty crayfish adult - Photo by U.S. Geological Survey
Scientific Name: 
Orconectes rusticus (Girard, 1852) (ITIS)
Common Name: 
Rusty crayfish
Native To: 
Ohio River drainage (Wilson et al. 2004)
Date of U.S. Introduction: 
First discovered outside of its native range in Wisconsin in the 1960s (DiDonato and Lodge 1993)
Means of Introduction: 
Probably through bait bucket releases (DiDonato and Lodge 1993)
Impact: 
Competes with native crayfish species and causes a decline in native species abundance (DiDonato and Lodge 1993)
Current U.S. Distribution: 
Great Lakes Region, New England, and Eastern U.S.

Spotlights

Wyoming Game & Fish Department.

Anglers, crayfish trappers, and other outdoor recreationists are asked to help the Wyoming Game and Fish Department protect our outstanding fisheries by reporting any rusty crayfish found in the Laramie River watershed. Rusty crayfish (Orconectes rusticus) are native to the Ohio River Basin, but have invaded many other states and Canadian provinces. They were first discovered in Wyoming in 2006 after being illegally introduced into private ponds and then escaping into Wagonhound Creek, a tributary of the North Platte River. Despite the Game and Fish Department’s early eradication efforts, the species has recently been found in the Laramie River as a result of another illegal introduction.

Rusty crayfish are 3-5 inches long, with a grayish-green body and easily-identifiable reddish fingerprint-like spots on each side of the body just in front of the tail. If you find a rusty crayfish, or catch one in a trap, take a photo of it and either return it to the water or kill it. Then contact the Laramie Game and Fish Department at (307) 745-4046 or reportais@wyo.gov.

Kansas Department of Wildlife & Parks.

Widespread sampling for invasive crayfish had never occurred in Kansas lakes – that is, until the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) recently funded a university project focused on the freshwater crustacean. KDWP's Aquatic Nuisance Species Program and Ecological Services section funded the project with the overarching goal of establishing sampling protocols that could then be used for long-term monitoring of both native and invasive crayfish in Kansas. During capturing efforts at McPherson State Fishing Lake – one of several small waterbodies slated to be inspected in the state – university researchers collected multiple Rusty Crayfish. Rusty Crayfish have not previously been documented in the wild in Kansas, making this official "discovery" the first of its kind.

Anglers, boaters and watersport enthusiasts are encouraged to keep their eyes open for this invasive species, which can be identified by its trademark large, black-tipped claws and rust-colored spots on its upper shell. If one is discovered, freeze it in a sealed plastic bag, note the date and location of capture, and contact KDWP's Emporia Research and Survey Office at (620) 342-0658.

Invasive Crayfish Collaborative.

The Invasive Crayfish Collaborative includes representatives of Great Lakes local, state and federal natural resource agencies, universities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and private businesses. These experts and stakeholders are working towards the region’s collective ability to manage and control invasive crayfish.

Distribution / Maps / Survey Status

DOI. USGS. Wetland and Aquatic Research Center.
Provides detailed collection information as well as animated map.

Images

Videos

Google. YouTube; University of Wisconsin-Madison. Center for Limnology.

Selected Resources

The section below contains highly relevant resources for this species, organized by source. Or, to display all related content view all resources for Rusty Crayfish.

Council or Task Force

Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office. Washington Invasive Species Council.

Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force.
Partnership
IUCN. Species Survival Commission. Invasive Species Specialist Group.

Ontario's Invading Species Awareness Program (Canada).

Northeast Aquatic Nuisance Species Panel.
Texas State University System. Texas Invasive Species Institute.
Federal Government

DOI. NPS. Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway.

Smithsonian Institution. Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. Marine Invasions Research Lab.

DOI. USGS. Wetland and Aquatic Research Center.
Provides distribution maps and collection information (State and County).
International Government
Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Central and Arctic Region.
Canadian Manuscript Report of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 2923.
State and Local Government

Missouri Department of Conservation.

Invasive crayfish (also called crawdads) displace crayfish species naturally found in bodies of water ("native" species). They introduce disease, hurt fishing, and harm aquatic ecosystems. Our best hope of controlling them is to prevent their introduction to new locations.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
The Colorado Division of Wildlife is monitoring the state's waters for the introduction of an aggressive invasive species, the rusty crayfish. Rusty crayfish were found for the first time in Colorado during routine sampling operations in 2009 in the Yampa River drainage between Steamboat Springs and the town of Yampa. Because of their larger size and more aggressive nature, rusty crayfish can impact fish populations by consuming small fish and fish eggs, and negatively impact fish and spread unwanted aquatic plants by aggressively harvesting underwater plant beds. Learn more how to identify the rusty crayfish, how to stop the spread and how to report sightings.
Academic
University of Michigan. Museum of Zoology.
Pennsylvania State University. Pennsylvania Sea Grant.
See also: Aquatic Invasive Species: Resources for additional species information
University of Wisconsin Sea Grant.
Professional

Chesapeake Bay Program.

Invasive Species Centre (Ontario).

Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council (Michigan).

Citations