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crayfish

Q: I found this creature walking in my yard right after Tropical Storm Debby. What is it?

Q: I found this creature walking in my yard right after Tropical Storm Debby.  At first, I thought it was a scorpion, but upon closer examination, it did not have a stinger.  It looks like a small lobster, but I live in Hilliard, far from the ocean.  What can you tell me about it?

A:  Thank you so much for sending in a photo, it is always so much easier to identify when we have some point of reference. It is not unusual to find crayfish in most any amount of fresh water; they do not live in ocean salt water unlike their distant relatives – lobsters. Crayfish can even survive in fresh water ditches as long as they are not too polluted.

Crayfish are crustaceans, similar to shrimp, lobster and crab. They have ten legs, eyes on stalks and a hard exoskeleton on the outside of their body. The front two are large pinching claws called Chellae. These claws are use to capture their prey and to defend themselves – try to keep your fingers out of reach!! Crayfish eat plants and small animals such as insects, worms, frog and toads. They are an important part of the food chain as they are eaten by raccoons, opossums, and snakes.  They can be eaten by humans (just add some Cajun seasoning) and are often used as fish bait.