This week in Creepy Crawlies I’m going to “introduce” you to a critter you’ve likely already met, the Signal Crayfish, Pacifastacus leniusculusif. If you’re an angler you’ve found this little fellow either at the business end of your hook; or try to sneak off with your catch! If you’re very unlucky you’ve found one clamped on to your toe while wading. It’s those pincers which help the crayfish help the ecosystem. These little guys are the garbage disposals of our waterways. Crayfish are omnivores (will eat anything) and use those pincers to tear up all manner of plant and animal matter into crayfish bite sized pieces. They are also a tasty food source themselves for people and a variety of area animals.
Invasion! The Signal Crayfish is native to our area, however two other species are non-native/invasive and are trying to take over the neighborhood. Those species are the Red Swamp and the Ringed Crayfish. Which is which? The Signal is orange, has smooth, solid colored claws and is the ‘big boy’ of the local crayfish world, growing up to 6″ in length. The Red Swamp is, well, red and has very bumpy claws, while the Ringed has black rings at the claw tips. For more information on interloping crayfish go to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife website and check out the “Invasive Species” page under the “Conservation” tab.
Fun fact: “But I call it…” There are well over 42 different names for crayfish; including crawdad, crawfish, mud puppies, nippers and even grave diggers! Whatever you call them, if you keep an eye on your catch and your toes, you can enjoy watching these little litter removers go about their daily work.