The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is seeking information from the public about the illegal dumping of red swamp crayfish at a Sauk Prairie canoe landing on June 21. The red swamp crayfish is a prohibited species in Wisconsin, which means that it is illegal to possess, transport and introduce live crayfish into Wisconsin waters. The last known finding of this organism in Wisconsin was in 2009.
The department responded to multiple reports of live crayfish in the parking lot at the canoe landing on the Wisconsin River in Sauk City. Two DNR experts verified the species as prohibited and mitigation efforts ensued. Within 24 hours, department staff gathered as many crayfish as possible, installed 1,000 feet of silt fencing and dug a trench to contain any live crayfish. An additional 900 feet of fencing was installed a week later. Since the red swamp crayfish can travel several miles over dry ground and can burrow into the ground during extended dry periods, this fencing will remain to contain any crayfish not initially captured.
Initial monitoring of the area does not suggest that any of the dumped crayfish reached the Wisconsin River or any other body of water. However, it is still possible and additional monitoring of the site and nearby waterbodies for the crayfish will continue.
Investigators are trying to determine who may have dumped the crayfish and why. Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the DNR tip line at 1-800-847-9367 or submit a violation report online.
The red swamp crayfish originally inhabited the coastal gulf plain region from the Florida panhandle to Mexico. They are dark red with raised bright red spots covering the body and claws and a black wedge-shaped stripe on the top of the abdomen. They may vary in length between 2 to 5 inches, though some collected were nearly 9 inches long. Occasionally, a genetic mutation may turn the body and/or claws blue.
Sometimes referred to as Louisiana crayfish, American crayfish or Louisiana lobster, these crustaceans were probably introduced through aquaculture because they are a popular food worldwide. The red swamp crayfish can be a host for parasites and disease and can carry crayfish fungus plague. If they establish, they can impact the ecosystem by aggressively competing with native crayfish and other species for food and habitat.
As with all aquatic invasive species, anglers and recreationists can help reduce the spread of this species by following these steps:
- Properly dispose of live crayfish and any other unneeded bait in the trash.
- Inspect your watercraft, trailer, motor, equipment, clothing, boots, buckets.
- Remove all visible mud, aquatic plants and animals before leaving any water access.
- Drain water from your boat bilge, motor, jet drives, livewell and all equipment.
- Never move live fish (still in water) or other animals and plants away from the waterbody.
- Dry everything for at least five days before going to other waterbodies or spray/rinse equipment with hot water at 140 degrees or steam to kill most species.