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L. Neil Smith's

Number 829, July 12, 2015

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Craypocalypse Now!
by Jeff Fullerton

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Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

Elmer's Aquarium on the Miracle Mile is still pretty good though a shadow of what they once were. Got out of dealing in live reptiles with the exception of Red Ear Sliders and a few other common aquatic turtle species. They still have a good selection of reptile supplies and feed. No more Blue Ridge Hatchery goldfish pellets my favored brand for feeding my turts—so I'm giving the Hikari brand. They did not have the goldfish pellets in a small packet—so I got the cichlid feed—to try. The appearance, the ingredient lists and percentages of protein, fat and roughage are exactly the same across the board which makes me think they are different in name only. Call one "Goldfish & Koi pellets"—the other "Cichlid"—clever those Japanese!

So now my Mauremys japonica will be eating food imported from their native land. They apparently like it so I decided to go with it as a supplement to another less expensive brand. Probably Blue Ridge which I can surely find another source online. Also got on the call list for Japanese Bitterlings in the event they get more.(1) But spring is slipping away and I fear it may be too late for the male I have to get back in condition—or to use another one if a shipment comes in. Looking up info about Bitterlings ; there still might be time. Apparently they will spawn all season long like other Cyprinids do if conditions are right.

According to some of the Eco Nazis ; Bitterlings have apocalyptic potential as an invasive species. Everything is apocalyptic anymore. Which brings me to the subject of this article. According to the infinite wisdom of the authorities in Pennsylvania and a few other states : the Crayfish Apocalypse is now upon us.

Which has become the rationale for natural resource authorities in the Keystone State who decided to ban the importation, sale, possession and transport of live crayfish within the commonwealth early this year. To head off an emergent ecological crisis.

Which means you cannot get them anymore at Elmer's or even order legally via the Internet. Or even catch and bring them home from the creek down the road. There are two species I know of that are native to my property—the Common Crayfish that inhabits the spring flows and the terrestrial Chimney Crayfish that I used to catch when I was a kid by lowering a piece of meat on string into their burrows and trying to pull them out. If they were a little prettier they would be worth keeping and maybe it would be legal to do so if they were caught here on the property. Then again maybe not. The Law in its infinite capacity for wisdom also demonstrates its infinite capacity to be an ass. In the current incarnation of the rules pertaining to reptiles and amphibians; the Bucket Heads declared it legal to collect 15 amphibian eggs from non—threatened species. But what happened if you successfully raise 15 larval Spotted Salamanders to metamorphs when the possession limit is now One? And you can't return captive herptiles to the wild.

I am not really a crayfish enthusiast but my heart goes out to those in Pennsylvania who were—or still are ; if they chose to keep a low profile and go the outlaw route like I did for a while with some of my favorite native turtles. It was sad to see those empty tanks at Elmer's earlier this season that once teemed with crayfish. Somehow I feel my freedom has been diminished because there is yet one more thing that was legal not even a year ago that has been rendered unlawful by the stroke of a pen. And I miss seeing them when I visit there and other local pet shops because they are interesting and in some cases downright beautiful and mostly harmless creatures.

Sad to contemplate there will be no more electric blues or dwarf blues or even the dwarf Mexican orange ones. The electric blue crayfish are a mutated color morph of the species Procambrus allenii from Florida and probably don't have much invasive potential in PA but those too are now banned in my state along with all other species. Zetts Fish Farm can no longer sell the famous Louisiana swamp crays—clarkii or even the native common crays to PA residents.

cooking crayfish

Like New Jersey is with the native turtle breeders—it is ok to sell out state. The Law truly is an ass!

And worst of all—there are those in the aquarium hobby who can't help but grovel like the Newt Guy who told me that when the government wants to do something it's usually for a good reason. In this case the argument it that giving up pet crayfish is a small price to pay for protecting the ecosystem of our waterways.

It's always a small price. But tell that to my other friend Bruce; Crawdaddy Bruce who wanted me to get him the blue colored Monongahela Crayfish(2) to add to his collection. Maybe I can give him some offspring from my turts instead—but those could be banned too being this hysteria about crayfish is just the latest in the unending string of pleas of necessity and the powers that be will never be happy until they can use the invasive species issue and other environmental bugaboos to put the entire nation on lockdown.

No matter it amounts to closing the barn door after the horses escape—I remember clarkii the LA swamp crayfish at Cranberry Lake and the Bucket Heads probably put them there to enhance the forage base for bass. And the vegetation in the lake is apparently thriving. But they'll probably get on a stupid kick and try to get rid of the tape grass and a native milfoil because its not native to the Appalachian highlands. If they go that far then why not remove the dam and try to restore the peatland ecosystem of the original cranberry / sphagnum glade for which the lake was named?

And the paranoia of the Bucket heads is never ending. According to the new regs you cannot transport live crayfish anywhere within the commonwealth—if you want to take them for use as fish bait or for human consumption you have to cut off their heads. When I told this to Bruce the Historian he said it sounded like a good way to get food poisoning which is the reason crawfish and most other crustaceans are kept alive until they are put into the pot.

Still waiting for the Rusty Crayfish Apocalypse. Craypocalypse Now! The Rusty Crayfish—Orconectes rusticus—which native to a small range in the states of Ohio, Kentucky and Tennesse has been spread beyond their native range via the bait trade. It does have a nasty reputation as an invasive species being that it supposably damages aquatic ecosystems and is larger and more aggressive than native crayfishes and fish are reluctant to prey on them. It makes sense to be concerned about them—though the verdict is still out on how bad it will ultimately get. Biological invasions like many other menacing hobgoblins that environmental activists and government officials beat the drums for are often oversold. And often used to justify massive overreach—like in this case where it has been used as an excuse for what amounts to a blanket ban on all Crayfish. Even the poor dead Common Crayfish I found on my own property this Saturday while putting the final touches on this article. The tinhorn dictators in Harrisburg and their helicopters that carry buckets of fish from lake to lake have done more than their share to introduce invasive species and move pathogens around. I can't help but think of Beavis & Butthead as the brown shirted Hall Monitors when I read the article where they are proudly displaying their tub of confiscated wood turtles.

Oh well—I'll still have fond memories of mine—but JPTs make a better pet because of their smaller size. And I've given up on the native green snails. The Japanese Trapdoors are much better adapted to life in my pond. They don't hurt plants and are much more often seen. The native green winkle which is not even native locally is very secretive and spends most of the time burrowed in the muck. Ray told me that the Trapdoors are banned in Wisconsin.(3)

A little bit late on that one also Charlie—to paraphrase a line from a favorite oldies song—considering they are pretty abundant in the Great Marsh in the center of the state. Or at several lakes I know of in Western Pennsylvania. And the Bucket Heads probably put them there too as they were once considered good forage for fish and other wildlife. Of course now they are considered "In—Vay—Sive" aliens that ought to be exterminated at all cost. Even if they are not hurting anything. It seems someone has taken it upon themselves to decide what belongs and what doesn't and that an impoverished ecosystem depleted of its original biodiversity is superior to one that is enriched by new immigrants. And GMOs—OHHHHH NOOOOO! Bruce the Historian a few weeks ago brought up the su genetically modified American Chestnut he had high hopes for—bein developed by Penn State. Well. Now that it is apparently ready for release or near ready—environmentalists are having issues about the tree which has been given blight resistance by inserting genes from wheat into its genome. And the federal government is now hesitant in allowing it to be introduced into natural ecosystems. If only the government were so inclined to heed the Precautionary Principle and Law of Unintended Consequences when it came to other matters!

So much for counting on the researchers in the universities and the government to bring back the American Chestnut. Kind of glad I decided to go ahead on my own with the American type hybrids with Asian species. The GMO approach is probably better but I don't care to put my life on hold waiting on the resolution of a policy debate involving people who think using science to bring back the wild chestnuts of my Grandmother's time(4) is a sin against Mother Dirt. Much like a debate I had in years past with someone who thought it was anathema to talk about using backyard ponds to conserve endangered fish. Who also was of the opinion that it would be a sin to mine asteroids and turn them into artificial worlds for human habitation—along with rich ecosystems of plant and animal life.

That and similar encounters all through my life have hardened my yearning for a way out—which is also considered a thoughtcrime by the likes of those who gave us the Berlin Wall and put up armed guards, barbed wire and minefields to stop people from leaving. Or the killjoy from Anne McCaffrey's Decision at Doona who lost his mind when the protagonist told him he was going "Off World"! Like how dare you misfit non—conformists even think about leaving. You have to stay here and atone for mankind's sins along with the rest of us. There can be no truants from the Eco—pocalypse and reparations for social injustice.

Ah forget that!

How about a future with more Buck Rogers and less Big Brother. Or better yet No Big Brother at all! If we're lucky he and all his bootlicking minions will be devoured in the coming Craypocalypse.


(1) Rhodeus ocelatus smithii. Got two males to go with my females and an "Asian Golden Clam"—actually a freshwater Unionid mussel from Thailand which I hope is reasonably close to the natural spawning host in Japan. It might work; considering that European Bitterlings spawn successfully in North American mussels and some researchers are claiming to have crafted artificial mussels to spawn these fish.

(2) Cambarus monongahelensis—a beautiful electric blue terrestrial species native to Western Pennsylvania that is rarely seen because of its secretive nature. It is a burrowing species like the Chimney Crayfish that inhabits steep slopes in deciduous forests. Unlike the blue morphs of P. alleni and Orconectes immunis that are popular with hobbyists—this one is blue as a species rather than the result of a recessive trait that functions like albinism. There are a few other naturally blue crayfish species including a woodland dweller of similar habit from Japan!

(3) DNR: Damned Near Russia—a favored term in Wisconsin and other states that use this acronym for their natural resource agencies. An even better one is Do Not Resuscitate—which I learned in my first CPR class in high school that also became a familiar concept in the medical career field! Something to think about if we ever find any of these organizations circling the drain someday.

(4) Loss of the American Chestnut was a devastating blow to the economy and independent spirit of Greater Appalachia. Few trees have so many uses to both humanity and wildlife. Who knows—I'm just speculating—maybe it was a significant factor contributing to the slide of the region into the greater government dependency that it is sometimes infamous for.

Additional Notes: I originally assumed the Rusty Crayfish scare was the driving force behind the blanket ban—but in a recent conversation with a pet shop manager I learned that the state may be more concerned that the blue mutant crays from Florida might hybridize and corrupt the gene pools of local species—or create an invasive hybrid super species. There is no end to the rationales that people will conjure up in order to justify infringing on the freedom of others.

Would have made for a more impressive illustration if I had a live crayfish rearing its pincers menacingly but I had to settle for a dead one I found stuck in a pipe I use to divert water from a spring flow to my ponds. Did try to obtain a subject from Greenlick Run but it and most local streams are still a bit high and swift from recent storms.

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