Common Name: Rusty Crayfish

Classification:  Non-native




* To help keep this map accurate and current, please send any distribution information (additions, deletions) to the webmaster.


National Range: “southern Ontario and Michigan to Kentucky and Tennessee; presumably introduced in one or more of the following: New England, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, New Mexico, West Virginia, and Wisconsin” (Hobbs Jr. 1989); “well established in the Clinch, Holston, and Nolichucky river systems… also... Tellico River (Little Tennessee River system) in Monroe County and … Clear Fork Cumberland River (Cumberland River system) in Campbell County: (Williams and Bivens 1996).

NC Physiographic Region(s): western piedmont

River Basin(s): Broad (Broad River below Lake Lure; see Fullerton and Watson 2001 for exact localities) and Catawba

Adult Habitat: “streams, ponds, and lakes” (Hobbs Jr. 1989); “occurs under rocks and in leaf litter, from pool and riffe situations… in limestone streams” (Bouchard 1974)

Reproductive Season: extended?

Species associates: C (C.) bartonii, C. (P.) sp. C, C. sp. cf. howardi.

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

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

Taxonomic Description:

  • body shape: cylindrical
  • coloration: carapace in hues of bluish grey to brown or dark green; large rust-colored spots on caudolateral edges of carapace (“as though one picked the crayfish up with paint on the fingertips”); bluish-white legs and underside; tips of chelae orange, subtended by black band
  • spines: possess all spines, most strong but branchiostegal and cephalic may be vestigial
  • rostrum: acarinate; margins concave and may be thickened; excavatedor concave dorsally; long, spiculiform; having marginal spines and long acumen
  • areola: moderately narrow, bearing 2-3 punctations across narrowest part
  • chelae: fingers S-shaped; double row of tubercles on mesial margin of palm; sometimes gap between fingers
  • other characteristics:straight, smooth edges of cutting edge of mandibles (vs. serrated in other species)
  • form I male gonopod: terminal elements very long; corneous central projection tapers to point and is approx. 25% length of carapace and greater than 50% of gonopod length; mesial process spatulate, slightly shorter than central projection; well-developed shoulder at cephalic base of central projection

Notes:  introduced into many areas outside its natural range (Midwestern U.S. states); presumably introduced via bait bucket into Lake Lure; known to be aggressive, competitive, and destructive to aquatic plants; has driven out native species in many areas in which it has been introduced via competition and hybridization (Perry 1998). Discovered in the North Fork Catawba and Catawba River upstream of Lake James in 2007.

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.