Event Protects Ferson Creek from Destructive Invader
Attention cowgirls and cowboys that love water! Grab your bandanas and boots and mosey on down to Ferson Creek Park for the Rusty Rodeo. You won’t be square dancin’ or wranglin’ cattle, but you will be roundin’ up a “wanted” aggressive invader of the Illinois waterways: the rusty crayfish.
From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday Aug. 7, families, individuals and groups are encouraged to stop by during this drop-in event to catch and remove rusty crayfish — nonnative, aquatic creatures that have been invading Illinois waterways since the 1970s.
Named for their brownish-red color, rusty crayfish are taking over the habitat of native crayfish, shredding vegetation that fish like to hide in and disrupting intricate parts of the ecosystem, according to Pam Otto, St. Charles Park District Outreach Ambassador.
“Rusties were introduced here most likely as fishing bait,” Otto explained. “The species actually didn’t come from that far away. Rusty crayfish are native to the Ohio River drainage. But they grow bigger and reproduce faster than our Illinois native species, which gives them a competitive advantage.”
She said 15 years ago she’d see up to three species of crayfish in Ferson and Otter creeks, but now the rusty crayfish is dominant, which is a sign it’s displacing the native crayfish such as the white river, virile (or northern) and northern clearwater species. “You always want a diversity of species to fill the niches in any ecosystem, and the rusty crayfish is taking over the habitat of native species who live and feed here.”
Therefore, the rusty crayfish has got to go. “The staff at the Fox Valley Park District’s Red Oak Nature Center came up with the Rusty Rodeo in 2019,” Otto said. “We helped out at their event then and last year too. This year we feel there’s a big enough following to expand the event to two sites.”
Hosted by the St.Charles Park District, the Fox Valley Park District, the Forest Preserve District of Kane County and Friends of the Fox River, the event will promises to be both fun and educational. Naturalists will be on hand to demonstrate how to catch crayfish and help participants hone their identification skills. Awards for the largest rusty and most rusties captured will be given. All crayfish will be checked by staff for proper identification.
“The goal for the day is to leave the creek better than we found it,” Otto said.
Participants are encouraged to dress for the weather, wear closed-toe shoes (not Crocs) for wading and plan to get muddy and wet. While the park district will have nets and pans for collection, participants can bring their own as well.
For more information, visit www.stcparks.org or call Pam Otto at 630-513-4346.