Red Swamp Crayfish
Red swamp crayfish can quickly dominate lakes, ponds, rivers and wetlands. They feed heavily on plants, snails, fish, and amphibians, aggressively competing with native crayfish and other species for food and habitat. They can lead to declines in native crayfish and can carry crayfish fungus plague.
Native to the Gulf of Mexico coast and the Mississippi River drainage system, 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 or for bait fishing. 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. Your actions and your help in reporting new infestations are vital for preventing their spread.
Identifying Red Swamp Crayfish
Red swamp crayfish look similar to native crayfish. They are dark red in color with raised bright red spots covering the body and claws and have a black wedge-shaped stripe on top of the abdomen. They vary in length between 2 to 5 inches. Occasionally, a genetic mutation may turn the body and/or claws blue, however all other features including the red raised spots remain the same.
Eradicating Red Swamp Crayfish is nearly impossible because they are found in all types of freshwater ecosystems and dig chimney-like burrows into the bottoms of lakes, ponds, and rivers.
What you can do to prevent the spread of this invasive species
- Learn to identify Red Swamp Crayfish.
- Never release any aquarium pets into the wild. Dispose of unwanted crayfish in the trash.
- Never dump live crayfish from one body of water into another.
- Inspect and remove aquatic plants and animals from boat, motor, equipment, and trailer.
- Drain lake or river water from live well and bilge before leaving access.
- Report sightings of Red Swamp Crayfish to Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council by calling (231) 347-1181 or by e-mailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to record your exact location, collection date, approximate density and size of infestation, and if possible, take a photograph (a cell phone comes in handy for this purpose).