Orconectes rusticus (Rusty crayfish)

Animal Crustaceans
Family: Cambaridae
Classification: Prohibited

Rusty Crayfish, thought to be native to Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee have been introduced to many other north east and central states. The primary path of introduction is thought to be through being used as live bait. However, they are also sold to schools by biological supply houses. While most suppliers include a warning not to introduce them into the wild, they are sometimes given away to students. It is also possible, as with the red swamp crayfish, that people hoping to develop a viable commercial harvest from local lakes may have planted them.

The rusty crayfish does not burrow, preferring to find cover among rocks, logs, and other debris in pools or fast water streams. They feed on a variety of aquatic plants, worms, snails, leeches, clams, aquatic insects, fish eggs and small fish. Because they have a high metabolic rate, they tend to consume much more food than native species. Although they have been observed eating the eggs of bluegill, bass, and pike, the fact that they reduce the abundance and diversity of aquatic plants and food such as mayflies, probably has a greater impact on these species.

Rusty crayfish have also been sold locally in pet stores as aquarium species. It is very likely that once they grow a bit and begin eating everything else in the tank they may be released into the wild. Once introduced, control or eradication becomes difficult, if not impossible. The best control is to prevent their introduction, and educate the public about the threats they pose.

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