By WIBW TV
PRATT, Kan. (WIBW) - An undocumented crayfish species found in McPherson State Fishing Lake poses a threat to other lakes in Kansas.
The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks says widespread sampling for invasive crayfish has never happened in Kansas lakes, that is until it recently funded a university project focused on the freshwater crustacean. It said its Aquatic Nuisance Species Program and Ecological Services section funded the project with the goal of establishing sampling protocols that would be used for long-term monitoring of both native and invasive crayfish in the state. To the surprise of staff and researchers, the need for such protocols was validated almost as quickly as the project began.
According to the KDWP, during the capturing efforts at McPherson State Fishing lake, university researchers collected various Rusty Crayfish. It said Rusty Crayfish have not yet been documented in the wild in Kansas, making this the first discovery of its kind. It said Rusty Crayfish captured at the lake consisted of both males and females of various ages, showing a reproduction population has been established in the lake. Unfortunately, it said this is not the type of species it hoped to find, as the species is invasive and known for considerable ecological damage it could cause to water bodies.
KDWP said the large, aggressive crayfish is not just known to attack the feet of unsuspecting lake-goers and animals, it outcompetes both native fish and crayfish species for forage, which also acts as an important cover for select prey species.
“The most likely cause of the Rusty Crayfish making its way into Kansas is through its use as fishing bait,” said KDWP Aquatic Nuisance Species Coordinator, Chris Steffen. “This species is a prime example of the importance of always draining water from your boat, live well, and bilge before leaving a waterbody, and of never moving bait from one waterbody to another. You just never know what could be hitchhiking a ride.”
According to the Department, staff and researchers working on the project will continue to experiment with various capture methods and techniques on a small number of water bodies throughout Kansas. Once an effective and efficient process has been found, it said staff will continue sampling efforts across a large number of lakes throughout the state.
KDWP said anglers, boaters and watersport enthusiasts should keep their eyes open for the invasive species, which can be identified by its large, black-tipped claws and rust-colored spots on its upper shell. It said if one is found, freeze it in a sealed plastic bag, note the date and location of capture and contact the Emporia Research and Survey Office at 620-342-0658.