There's been a new species discovered in the Red Deer River, but it's not native to our area.

Crayfish have been found along the banks of the river in East Coulee so far.

"Crayfish are native to the Beaver River Watershed, that's the only place in Alberta that they are native. They are in other places in the province and that's most likely because of a natural range expansion by the Crayfish, but also by assisted movement like people illegally introducing them," stated Tanya Rushcall, Aquatic Invasive Species Technician with Alberta Environment and Parks.

The main concern with the Crayfish outside of their native range is that they can be quite prolific.

"They can breed quite rapidly and they feed on a wide range of plants, invertebrates, tadpoles and even small fish. When you have them in large numbers there could be issues with competition with native fish species and invertebrate species," Rushcall explained.

"Worst case scenario if you have a large population that is feeding on fish eggs, tadpoles and small fish, there is the potential that you have the decline in fish population. That would impact things like angling opportunities and the whole food web within that system, but we haven't seen that happen yet within Alberta," she added.

So, what should be done with the Crayfish if found?

"Outside of the Beaver River Watershed you can catch them, you can only using angling as a method, but then you have to follow the sport fishing regulations or you can catch them by hand. Some people like to eat them, so if you're out there you can grab them by hand, but you do need to kill them before they leave the shoreline," concluded Rushcall.

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