Something Different This Way Comes

Living on a quiet wooded street near a stream for 23 years, you see all kinds of wildlife passing through. The usual animals range from turkey, rabbits, snapping turtles and deer to those a notch up on the food chain, like bobcat, coyote, fox and bear. You get to a point where you feel like you know the place and have seen it all. And then nature surprises you with something different.

Taking a walk on the cul-du-sac on a humid night after a day of rain, the sky began a light show of soft orange and yellow moving to deeper orange, pinks and reds. The street had long since dried out and most of the focus was on what was happening in the sky. But then something caught our eye. Some form of critter moving deliberately down the street in our direction. First thought was some kind of bug, but it was almost the length of a chipmunk. On further inspection, it was what I believe to be a rusty crayfish (Orconectes rusticus).

This thing had black eyes that saw us coming from twenty feet away, and it immediately curled into a defensive position. Debating what to do with it, I decided to remove it from the potential danger (the middle of the street) and move it towards the stream. A bucket and brush did the trick, and this oddity was safely off the street and probably walking through deep grass to the water by the time we finished our walk.

It was only later when researching this crayfish that I realized it was an invasive species, introduced to waterways as bait or dumped from aquariums. I cursed myself for helping it thrive in an unnatural environment, but you don’t always know what you’re working with until it’s too late. I wasn’t inclined to make jambalaya out of it, and until the moment I found out it was invasive I felt it had earned another day on this planet walking down the middle of a long street between wherever it was to where it was clearly going.

Humans deliberately and inadvertently help invasive species move into new environments. After years of the expected, this was a first in my particular environment. Maybe shellfish walking down the street is common in your neck of the woods but not so much in Southern New Hampshire. It does make me wonder, what the heck will I see walking down the street next?

Hey—you’re not from around here?!

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