Critter of the Month: Red Swamp Crayfish WATCH

Red Swamp Crayfish (Procambarus clarkia) can quickly dominate lakes, ponds, rivers and wetlands. They feed heavily on plants, snails, fish, and amphibians, aggressively competing with native crayfish and can carry crayfish fungus plague.

Native to Gulf Coast and Mississippi River drainage to Illinois, they have spread to other U.S. waters probably through the release of live study specimens by teachers and students, by aquarists as pets, and by consumers who purchased them from live food markets. They are widely available in the U.S. through the seafood industry and aquarium trade. While they usually spread along connected waterways, they can crawl for several miles at night and during wet weather. Eradicating red swamp crayfish is nearly impossible because they often dig deep burrows into banks of lakes and rivers. Your actions and your help in reporting new infestations are vital for preventing the spread.

What you can do to help:

*Learn to recognize Red Swamp Crayfish WATCH.

* Inspect and remove visible aquatic plants, animals, and mud from boat, motors and trailers before transport.

* Drain lake or river water from bilge, livewell and motor before leaving access.

* Dispose of unwanted live bait, worms and fish parts in the trash.

* Never dump live fish or live bait into another body of water. If it didn’t start in there it doesn’t belong in there, take it back with you.

* Rinse boat and equipment with high pressure, hot water, AND/OR

* Dry everything for a minimum of five days or more before reuse.

* Report suspected new sightings – not exact location; wrap a plant/animal/mussel fragment in a wet paper towel, place in a sealed plastic bag; and call the Minnesota Sea Grant Program in Duluth, (210-726-8712; or a Minnesota DNR Invasive Species Specialist (see www.mndnr.gov/invasives/contacts.html), 1-888-MINNDNR or (651) 259-5100.

Reminder: Know the rules!

Specimens are needed to confirm sightings, but some jurisdictions prohibit possession and transport of invasive aquatic plants and animals. Unauthorized introduction of plants, fish, or invertebrates into the wild is illegal. Protect your property and our waters.

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