DNR concerned with invasive red swamp crayfish found in southern Michigan

- In states like Louisiana and Texas, the red crayfish is a delicacy when boiled. In Michigan, they're more than a nuisance - they threaten the state's ecosystem. The red swamp crayfish has been found in Michigan bodies of water this summer. While that may not seem like the end of the world, it could be for native crayfish in Michigan.

The state Department of Natural Resources said earlier this month that multiple numbers of red swamp crayfish turned up recently in a Novi retention pond and in Sunset Lake, in the Kalamazoo County town of Vicksburg.

They are Michigan's first known sightings of live red swamp crayfish. 

Call them crayfish, crawfish, crawdads, mountain lobsters etc. the Michigan DNR is fighting to keep the red ones out before they compete with the native Michigan crayfish. According to the DNR, the red swamp crayfish compete aggressively with native species for food and habitat.

The red swamp crayfish has a dark red color with bright red raised spots. They have long claws and a bony exoskeleton and typically measure between 2.2 inches and 4.7 inches long.

They look a little like mini lobsters but they live in permanent freshwater habitats where they burrow deep into the soil and create large mounds with a pretty big hole in the center.

Nick Popoff of the DNR says the deep burrows that damage infrastructure such as dams, levees and irrigation systems. They compete with native crayfish for food and habitat and Popoff says getting rid of them is difficult. 

They're native to the Mississippi River drainage and the Gulf Coast. Ask anyone from the area and they'll likely tell you they're delicious to eat. They're also found in California, Delaware, Maryland, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. Introduced but not established in Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Nevada, and New York.

Up here in Michigan, they have to go.

If you happen to see one while you're out this summer, contact the DNR so they can remove them before they cause major problems in the Great Lakes State.

But - just because you see a red crayfish doesn't mean it's the one they're searching for. There are two natives that look similar - the devil crawfish and the white river crayfish. The Devil Crawfish has a mostly tan body with red highlights around the head, body, and claws. The White River Crayfish is tan to a rusty red color with no bright red bumps.

It's complicated - but, if you're concerned, reach out to the DNR to be safe. 

DNR staff will monitor both locations to see how far the crayfish have spread, while using nets and traps to capture them.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report

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