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  • The West Virginia Daily News

    White Sulphur Springs Fish Hatchery Celebrating Landmark Recovery Success of Big Sandy Crayfish

    By Annette Slonaker,

    29 days ago
    https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=4SzomB_0tEabIb100

    WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS W.Va. (WVDN) – Great news from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists and partners, Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources and West Liberty University! There’s hope on the horizon for Big Sandy crayfish On May 14, biologists released hatchery-raised crayfish in Virginia for the first time, representing a chance at recovery for the federally threatened species. Students from West Liberty University and Ridgeview High School also attended to help release the Big Sandy crayfish in the McClure River, near McClure, Virginia, which is the only known place in America where they live.

    Laura Vachula (Office of Communications) at The Wildlife Service, who published an article featuring biologists’ work on the subject, said,  “A series of scientific breakthroughs and groundbreaking new methods developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists and partners, Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources and West Liberty University, have led to successfully raising the species in captivity at White Sulphur Springs National Fish Hatchery. As part of the species’ recovery outline, in 2018, biologists at White Sulphur Springs National Fish Hatchery began efforts to rear the crayfish for stocking in partnership with the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources and West Liberty University Crayfish Conservation Laboratory. The hatchery specializes in rare and endangered species, including the candy darter and salamander mussel.”  Biologists Drew Phipps and Riley Aulick, among many others, have been carefully handling the endangered species for a few years, and now it’s graduation day for the Big Sandy.

    “Having learned how to raise the species at the lab, the biologists released the first successful cohort of 77 crayfish at multiple sites throughout Virginia’s McClure River. Found only in the Big Sandy River basin in Virginia, Kentucky and West Virginia, Big Sandy crayfish protect themselves from predators by sheltering in small depressions under large rocks. They rely on clean, healthy streams and waterways for survival — accumulated sediment between rocks results in fewer hiding places.

    Not only does sediment reduce the amount of available habitat for Big Sandy crayfish, but it also reduces the amount of available habitat for prey for the species, like macroinvertebrates, said Riley Aulick, wildlife biologist at the West Virginia Ecological Services Field Office and the national recovery lead for Big Sandy crayfish.

    Unfortunately, mining, timber harvest and other activities that can increase sedimentation have shrunk their habitat and left the crayfish vulnerable to becoming endangered. In 2016, Big Sandy crayfish was listed as threatened and is now protected under the Endangered Species Act.”

    As the group released the crayfish, Vachula said, “The bright-blue crustaceans scampering across the river bottom to shelter represented a huge leap towards recovery for the federally threatened species. This is the first time hatchery-reared Big Sandy crayfish have been released back into their native Virginia waters. Each hatchery-raised crayfish has a brightly colored elastomer tag implanted in its abdomen — easy to see through the shell. Scientists will use these tags to identify the crayfish and estimate their survival.”

    With the krewe of crayfish released, Aulick is already thinking about the future. “In the long term, we will look at restoring habitat that has been degraded ,” he said. Efforts are already underway. A hazardous low-head dam on the McClure River in Clinchco, Virginia, will be removed, reconnecting 90 miles of river habitat. This project, through the National Fish Passage Program with funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will improve the health of the river ecosystem and increase access to potential habitat.”

    The team is awaiting their new “freshman” babies as the rehabilitation continues and more conservation efforts are planned .

    What can you do to get involved? Take an opportunity to explain to a child that when seeing any animal in the wild, leave it in its natural habitat. Yes, they’re pretty with that blue hue and huge claws, but without them, others face extinction. By removing one link from the chain, others are sure to follow the plight of the Big Sandy.

    Many are grateful to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Department and the fish hatchery at White Sulphur for their hard work and efforts in conservation and restoration.

    To learn more about what they are doing to protect wildlife, please visit their website at https://www.fws.gov/ . Thank you to Laura Vachula for her informative article.

    The post White Sulphur Springs Fish Hatchery Celebrating Landmark Recovery Success of Big Sandy Crayfish appeared first on West Virginia Daily News .

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