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Troublesome crayfish discovered in Lake Granby

CPW said rusty crayfish, native to the Ohio River Basin, were found in Colorado's Lake Granby.

GRAND LAKE, Colo. — Colorado Parks and Wildlife found an invasive species in Colorado waters: Rusty crayfish, a species native to the Ohio River Basin, were found in Lake Granby, the department said in a release Monday.

CPW said a routine sampling procedure by its Aquatic Nuisance Species team revealed the presence of multiple crayfish at Lake Granby, south of Grand Lake, in August. 

After a preliminary species identification at the department's lab, a genetic testing procedure at Pisces Molecular in Boulder confirmed the samples were rusty crayfish, CPW said.

To determine just how many rusty crayfish are in Colorado, the department's aquatic team and aquatic biologists from the area set traps in Lake Granby, its surrounding waters and the Colorado River in early September, CPW said. Two traps from Lake Granby caught rusty crayfish — the others did not.

No crayfish are native west of the Continental Divide and must be killed or returned to the water where they were taken, per the release. When it comes to rusty crayfish — a "larger, more aggressive freshwater crayfish" with rusty patches on its sides — it is believed that they were illegally brought to Colorado by anglers as bait.

Credit: Colorado Parks and Wildlife

“While this is not the first time we have found rusty crayfish west of the Divide here in Colorado, it is the first detection in the Upper Colorado River basin,” said Robert Walters, CPW’s invasive species program manager. “While finding any invasive species is detrimental to our state’s aquatic ecosystems, finding rusty crayfish in Lake Granby, which feeds into the Colorado River, poses an even greater threat to the entire Colorado River Basin.”

Rusty crayfish were first found in Colorado in 2009 in the Yampa River and Catamount Reservoir.

CPW provided the following steps for people to prevent the introduction and spread of invasive species in the state:

  • Use only bait that is legal in Colorado. Never bring in live aquatic bait from another state.
  • Do not throw unused bait of any kind back in the water alive.
  • Clean, drain and dry your gear and water craft before heading to the next body of water.
  • Do not dispose of pets or unwanted aquarium plants or animals in natural systems. 

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