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Invasive "furry"-clawed crabs that terrorize fishermen have been found in New York

Maine fishermen, chef aim to reduce invasive green crab population
Maine fishermen, chef aim to reduce invasive green crab population 04:28

Just days ago, invasive Joro spiders sent New Yorkers into a frenzy amid news that the large arachnids that can soar with the winds are headed for the Big Apple. Now, there's another critter causing a stir that has "furry" mittens for claws and is known to terrorize fishermen while tearing up coastlines. 

New York's Department of Environmental Conservation said last week that they found mitten crabs in the state's Nissequogue River over the winter, news that they said, "was anything but crabulous."  More recently, the agency, the creatures have have been found in the Hudson River and Long Island Sound.

"These crabs move between brackish and marine waters and have the potential to disrupt local ecosystems by out competing native marine life," the department said in its June 5 Facebook post. 

Mittens are a great winter accessory but when DEC staff discovered mitten crabs in the Nissequogue river this past...

Posted by NYS Department of Environmental Conservation on Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Chinese mitten crabs are an invasive species that are originally from East Asia. The Smithsonian says that the crabs first established an invasive population in the San Francisco Bay in the '80s, but it took decades for them to reach the opposite coast. 

According to New York Invasive Species Information, these crustaceans were first documented in the eastern U.S. Chesapeake Bay in 2006 at the mouth of Maryland's Patapsco River. One of the crabs was first spotted in New York in May 2007 when it was found in a commercial crab pot in the Hudson River.

Chinese mitten crab
27 February 2024, Schleswig-Holstein, Geesthacht: Numerous Chinese mitten crabs (Eriocheir sinensis) cross an obstacle at the Geesthacht fish ladder.  Frank Bründel/picture alliance via Getty Images

It's not yet fully known the kind of impact they will have in New York, but so far, their impacts in Europe and San Francisco have been negative ecologically and economically, the DEC says. The tiny, hard-shelled animals have been known to steal fishing bait and damage fishing gear, block power plant cooling systems and even amplify flooding risk by burrowing in banks, causing them to be unstable and erode. 

To identify them, the agency says to look out for "furry" claws that resemble mittens on adult crabs. Younger crabs may not have the fuzzy claws, and it's recommended to look for a notch on their carapace, or shell, between their eyes and the four small spines on each side. 

But what do you do if you happen to see one? 

"Do not throw it back alive!" the Smithsonian says. 

New York officials say that if a mitten crab is seen, it should be immediately removed from the environment and frozen. They also encourage anyone who finds one to take photos, make note of where it was found and report it to the Bureau of Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health. 

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