Crawling crawfish: Migration is unusual in Greenwich Township

August 6, 2009
Gloucester County Times

GREENWICH TWP. - Township residents and employees have been puzzled the last few days over the emergence and migration of dozens of crawfish from a creek to a shopping center.

"I've lived here all my life and I haven't seen one outside the creek in 20 to 22 years," said resident Larry McGill. "On Tuesday I found 36 and today I found 12. They're also much larger than I've seen before. The biggest has probably been 6 inches."

Robin Bowman, manager of the Building Blocks day care center, said she started noticing the freshwater crustaceans that resemble small lobsters on Monday.

"We got a call from the people next door, who said, 'Lady, you have scorpions in your driveway,' but they're actually crawfish and they're coming across this big field," said Bowman. "There seems to be the most in the early morning and it's just so odd. We hate to see them die, so we've been trying to take most of them back to the creek. I brought some in for the kids to look at and they said they look like Sebastian from 'The Little Mermaid.' "

McGill said he's been researching the last few days to try to figure out why the crawfish would be exhibiting such strange behavior, but he has not been able to find any answers.

"It's not their spawning season, that's in the spring," said McGill. "Maybe it had something to do with the heavy rain we had recently. But if they stay out in the sun, they dry up and die."

"I'm almost wondering if there could be something in the water that's driving them away," added Bowman.

Whatever the case, the crawfish have returned each morning. Bowman said the children watch eagerly from the front window as what looks like little black dots scale the field.

"All I can tell you is that we've never heard of anything like this," said Darlene Yuhas from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. "But our biologists absolutely are intrigued and will be looking into it."

"I'm not, by far, a crawfish expert, but I know they're in this area and can travel out of water for short periods of time," said Jack Carr from the New Jersey Academy for Aquatic Sciences based in Camden. "In the Pinelands, they sometimes burrow in soft mud or silt and are able to reach the water table, so maybe this is a low-lying meadow and with all the rain they've been able to explore a little further from the creek before getting stuck."

Carr said it's not breeding season for the crawfish and that they lay eggs in the water, so their behavior is out of the ordinary.

"We'd just like to find out what's going on and why they're coming here now," said Bowman. "And we've been doing all we can to save them so they don't get too hot in the sun or get stepped on or run over by cars. We kind of feel bad for them."

Back to Crayfish News!