Crawdads get the boot, but not the boil



At Arizona's Fossil Creek this August, concerned locals took a bite out of an invasive crayfish population.

Two years ago, under pressure from local environmental groups, power provider Arizona Public Service agreed to remove a 90-year-old dam from the creek, which provides important habitat for native fish like Gila and roundtail chubs, desert and Sonoran suckers, and speckled and longfin dace (HCN, 12/6/99: Fossil creek will flow again). The dam won't actually be dismantled until 2009, but scientists and environmental groups are already working to restore Fossil Creek.

Biologists from state and federal agencies and Flagstaff's Northern Arizona University are assessing fish and invertebrate populations. They're also trying to oust non-native crayfish * which escaped when they were used as fishing bait - and introduced sport fish, such as green sunfish, channel cats and smallmouth bass.

In late August, 20 volunteers from the Grand Canyon Trust, a Flagstaff-based conservation group, counted native fish and removed all the non-natives that they trapped. Then they herded about 600 crayfish into nets, and stranded them on the beach to die.

Originally, the organizers of the weekend had planned to cook and eat the crawdads as part of the evening meal, but the taste of victory proved elusive. "They were really small," says Bob Hoffa, a volunteer coordinator for the Trust. "They wouldn't have been worth eating."

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