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Mississippi

Camp Shelby Burrowing Crayfish

History and Range

As the name implies, the Camp Shelby burrowing crayfish is only found at Camp Shelby, one of the largest National Guard Training installations in the United States.

The small, terrestrial crustaceans require open habitat provided by the pitcher plant wetlands of the Cypress Creek and Beaumont Creek watersheds within the DeSoto National Forest at Camp Shelby. The crayfish was selected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a candidate for federal listing and has since been protected under a Candidate Conservation Agreement.

The U.S. Forest Service, the Mississippi Museum of Natural History, the Mississippi Military Department, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service developed the Candidate Conservation Agreement to protect habitat that is vital for the continued survival of the rare species.

At Camp Shelby, Nature Conservancy biologists have monitored the crayfish and its habitat since 2004.

Threats

Suitable habitat is the primary factor limiting the population of Camp Shelby burrowing crayfish. The pitcher plant wetlands at Camp Shelby are surrounded by longleaf pine habitat, which is dependant on periodic fire.

Without fire, woody underbrush can encroach and trees can become overly dense, shading out vegetation, including pitcher plants.

Characteristics

Camp Shelby burrowing crayfish... 

  • grow up to 2 inches in length;
  • spend most of their time in the burrows they dig;
  • are found in up to 75 percent of the burrow mounds excavated during research monitoring;
  • burrowing activity is largely limited between fall and late spring when the ground is wetter; they are predominately dormant when the ground is dry;
  • create burrows that are used by several species of reptiles.
What the Conservancy is Doing

Conservancy scientists are currently monitoring the habitat characteristics and health of the pitcher plant wetlands where the species is found. The population size is monitored indirectly via burrow counts. Population and habitat monitoring are a requirement of the Candidate Conservation Agreement (CCA) for the species.

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