Common Name: Virile/Northern Crayfish

Classification:  Non-native




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National Range: “From Saskatchewan to Ontario, Canada, and from Montana and Utah to Arkansas, New York, and Maine.  Introduced into California, Maryland, parts of New England, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, West Virginia, Utah, New York, Chihuahua, Mexico, and Pennsylvania” (Hobbs Jr. 1989); “…we also have collections from the Nolichucky and French Broad River systems in Hamblen, Greene, and Cocke counties [TN]….” (Williams and Bivens 1996)

NC Physiographic Region(s): upper western piedmont

River Basin(s): Catawba (see Cooper et al. 1998 for exact localities)

Adult Habitat: “lentic and lotic situations” (Hobbs Jr. 1989); “small streams to large rivers and reservoirs” (Williams and Bivens 1996); “inhabits small creeks to large rivers and impoundments; found in both pool and riffle situations under rocks and in leaf litter of fluvial waters” (Bouchard 1974).

Reproductive Season: n/a

Species associates: C. sp. C (in North Carolina)

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

Identification references:  Hobbs Jr. 1989, Jezerinac et al. 1995

Taxonomic Description:

  • body shape: slightly dorsoventrally compressed but fairly wide
  • coloration:  various shades of brown or reddish-brown with dark highlights; chelae green; tubercles cream or yellow; underside cream
  • spines: cervical, cephalic, marginal spines present; lacking or reduced branchiostegal spines
  • rostrum: straight margins, not thickened
  • areola: fairly narrow, having approx. 1-2 punctations across narrowest part
  • chelae: smooth, robust/long; bearing 2 rows well-developed tubercles along mesial margin of palm; well-developed dorsolongitudinal ridges on fingers; elonated plumose setae at base of fixed finger;
  • other characteristics: obsolete suborbital angle; interrupted cervical groove; eyes somewhat small
  • form I male gonopod: terminal elements long, curving at approx. 30 degrees to main shaft; central projection corneous; mesial process truncated and non-corneous; cephalic base of central projection without shoulder

Notes:  likely a bait-bucket introduction into a reservoir; known to be aggressive and drive out indigenous species in upper Midwestern U.S.

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.