Another Unexpected Creek Visitor: The Crayfish

Since spotting the snapping turtle in the creek last fall, I have gotten into the habit of standing at the fence and scanning the creek and banks to see if there is anything interesting to photograph.

Early last month, I noticed something in the water making it’s way back up the creek.

Crayfish in the creek

Though in all honesty, when I first saw it I thought that maybe someone threw out a lobster. But then realized that no, it had to be a very large crayfish, as lobsters are saltwater arthropods and the creek isn’t saltwater.

While I’ve seen crayfish before, I’m use to them being on the smaller end of the scale in terms of size–where they retreat when you start moving towards them. I think that if I tried to ‘fish’ this one out–it would have come at me with its pincers pinching.

Whenever we went to the cabin up in northern Minnesota, I enjoyed ‘chasing’ the crayfish away from my swimming area–as they were always small in size (or at least all the ones I’d seen had been smallish).

The crayfish moving up the creek

I’m assuming that this one had possibly been washed down creek from the upstream reservoir during one of the really big storms we’d recently had and was trying to make its way back to the reservoir before the creek dried out. I managed to keep track of it for awhile, but then lost sight of it after it moved under a branch and some other debris.

Reddish crayfish making its way up the creek.

So how about a little background on crayfish (also known as crawfish or crawdads)? Crayfish is the general name for crustaceans within the families Astacidae (found within the Northern Hemisphere), Parastacidae and Austroastracidae (both found within the Southern Hemisphere).

They are related to and resemble the lobster. There are over 500 species worldwide, and over half of those are found within North America. Majority of the species live in fresh water, though there are some that prefer brackish or salt water.

They’re common in streams and lakes (usually hiding under something during the day), and are usually the most active at night, hunting and feeding on snails, insect larvae, worms, and tadpoles. Which made seeing this one during the day that much more odd.

The life expectancy and time to reach sexual maturity varies between species from anywhere from a few months to a few years (in terms of sexual maturity) and then a year to twenty years (in terms of life expectancy). Crayfish mate in the fall, but the female waits until spring to lay the eggs. She then carries them around (for anywhere from 5 to 8 weeks) until the young hatch. The young will then stay close to mom for another couple of weeks before striking out on their own.

Still slowly trucking up the creek.

There are actually about 30 different species of crayfish in Oklahoma, and I think this is the first time that I’ve seen one–and I’ve lived in this state most of my life. But then again–I don’t go out looking for them either, I’m a ‘fair weather’ photographer of majority of things–I wait for them to come to me. 🙂

Since spotting this ‘traveler’ and the snapping turtle last fall, I’ve been keeping my eye on the creek to see what other animals may possibly be moving around in the area: and so far that has been the mallards.

Have you every caught a crayfish? If so–how big was it? Have you ever eaten crayfish? If so, what is your favorite recipe for cooking them?