North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission

Procambarus (Scapulicambarus) clarkii   Girard 1852

Common Name: Red Swamp Crayfish

Classification:  Non-native



Additional Information


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National Range: “Northern Mexico to Escambia County, Florida, and north to southern Illinois and Ohio.  Widely introduced in the United States and elsewhere; Huner (1986) recorded the following introductions: Arizona, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Belize, Brazil, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Island of Cyprus, Japan, Kenya, People’s Republic of China, Portugal, Spain, Taiwan, and Uganda.  It has also been introduced into Oklahoma and into Utah (Johnson, 1986:630).  Limited cultivation is in progress in Colombia, France, and Zambia, and introductions are planned or have been made in Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe” (Hobbs Jr. 1989); many other nations (escapees from aquaculture facilities)

NC Physiographic Region(s): piedmont and coastal plain (Cooper et al. 1998, Fullerton and Watson 2001)

River Basin(s): Broad, lower Cape Fear, Catawba, French Broad, Lumber, Neuse, Pasquotank, Tar-Pamlico, Yadkin-Pee Dee

Adult Habitat: “lentic and lotic situations and burrows (tertiary burrower)” (Hobbs Jr. 1989);“in its native range this species prefers growths of aquatic vascular plants or leaf litter; tertiary burrower” (Bouchard 1974); “sluggish streams and lentic habitats, swamps, ditches, sloughs, ponds, etc. especially in vegetation, leaf litter, etc.; secondary burrower”(Williams and Bivens 1996); in backwater or swampy areas of reservoirs

Reproductive Season: winter??

Species associates: C. latimanus, C. reduncus,C. diogenes, C. sp. C, F. fodiens, and P. acutus, others?

Conservation status:  Nonindigenous (non-native) species in North Carolina

Identification references: Cooper 1998, 1999; Hobbs Jr. 1989; Hobbs 1991

Taxonomic Description:

  • body shape: cylindrical, very large animal
  • coloration:  normally red; some in shades of brown; blue morphs exist; chelae with bright red tubercles
  • spines: strong cervical, cephalic, branchiostegal, and marginal spines
  • rostrum: long; with marginal spines
  • areola: linear
  • chelae: notch in proximal portion of dactyl, leaving gap and delimited by tubercle (giving the chela an s-shaped appearance); large tubercle opposite end of gap on fixed finger; large scarlet tubercles on the palm and fingers
  • other characteristics: n/a
  • form I male gonopod: setae arising from punctations at the base of the central projection; prominent shoulder on the distocephalic surface(appearing in lateral aspect as large, rounded plate)

Notes:  likely introduced either via bait-bucket or as an aquarium or aquaculture escapee; widely introduced throughout the U.S. and in other parts of the world; blue specimens found to be sold in aquarium stores;may compete with native species

Crayfish Regulations (PDF)

According to NC General Statue and NCWRC Regulation, it is unlawful to stock any fish (including shellfish and crustaceans) into public waters without a WRC permit.  It is also unlawful to transport, purchase, possess, or sell any live individuals of virile crayfish (Orconectes (Gremicambarus) virilis), rusty crayfish (Orconectes (Procericambarus) rusticus), Australian “red claw” crayfish (Cherax quadricarinatus) or other species of “giant” crayfish species.

Illustrations are reproduced with the permission of the Smithsonian Institution Press. We are grateful to them for allowing us to provide this useful information with the other materials provided herein. We also wish to recognize the tremendous contribution to crayfish biology by the author/artist, the late Horton H. Hobbs Jr.

The following illustration is reproduced from:
Hobbs Jr., H. H. 1989. An illustrated checklist of the American crayfishes (Decapoda: Astacidae, Cambaridae, and Parastacidae). Washington, D.C., Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology, Number 480:1-236.

        Credit NCWRC for all photos unless otherwise stated.