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Environment, Energy and Transportation

Invasive Northern crayfish already spreading to Bear Creek, Rogue River

051622_Northern crayfish_600.jpg
Michael Parker
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The Northern crayfish can be identified by it's barnacle-like bumps on its claws. Color can't be used to distinguish crayfish species

It’s likely too late to contain a species of invasive crayfish in Southern Oregon. That’s after biologists found they're spreading throughout Rogue Valley waterways.

The invasive Northern crayfish was reported for the first time in Oregon last month, in an Ashland waterway that eventually flows into the Rogue River.

Native to the midwest, they can outcompete local crayfish species and prey on endangered salmon and steelhead eggs.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Rick Boatner says his team conducted a survey last week to see the extent of the damage.

"You know, I was disappointed," Boatner says. "I was hoping they were still just in the Ashland area, but they’re outside of the Ashland area – in Bear Creek, which is part of that system. So they’re moving on down to the Rogue.”

Boatner says there’s not much that can be done now to contain the crayfish, but encourages folks to report sightings of Northern crayfish to track their reach.

“So we may be at a point where we can’t do much," he says. "Since they’re everywhere.”

Boatner says control methods such as poison or trapping would be either ineffective or harmful to native species at this point.

It’s still unknown how the crayfish were introduced to the region. Boatner believes the remains of a school science project could have been dumped into a nearby waterway; unaware the crayfish are invasive.

Importing non-native crayfish to Oregon requires a permit, and violators can face penalties or civil fines.