May 282011
 

I actually first discovered this crayfish colony almost a year ago, while visiting a nearby park. At the time I noticed a number of mud structures, which I thought resembled crayfish chimneys.

This particular location is nowhere near a standing body of water, which I believed would be essential for crayfish survival, so I dismissed the find, and decided there must be some other explanation for the mud structures besides crayfish.

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit the park again, and while there I decided to investigate the area to see if I could explain my earlier finding.

I quickly located a number of the mud mounds, finding around 20 or 30 or more chimneys in the park and on the grounds of an adjacent church.

A Parkhill Prairie Crayfish burrow.

This is a different, more substantial Crayfish Chimney. Again, the mud is still wet, indicating that the burrowing had occurred recently.

A mud chimney, illustrating the colony’s apparent relationship to a nearby drainage culvert.

A good, representative picture of the area where the Parkhill Prairie Crayfish colony was found.

The grounds that these chimneys are located on are well maintained, and mowed regularly. It appears that the chimneys may be knocked down regularly during mowing, and rebuilt on roughly a weekly basis.

Crayfish skeletons found in the park under an evergreen tree.

If you look closely at the base of the nearest tree, you can just make out the crayfish body parts from the previous photograph.

I soon discovered that the Crayfish Chimneys did not just follow the low ground leading to the drainage culvert, but instead, they were to be found all over the immediate area.

A Parkhill Prairie Crayfish burrow.

Another Crayfish Chimney. This one is partially plugged.

Here you see a relatively tall Crayfish Chimney, which has been capped and sealed up tightly by its occupant.

The Crayfish Chimneys came in many shapes and sizes. This one was relatively small, but as you can see in this photograph, the mud is still wet, indicating recent activity by the burrowing animal.

A closeup of a crayfish burrow.

I caught a glimpse of something retreating down into this burrow, but was unable to get a good look at it.

I returned to the burrow a few minutes later, and was able to secure a photograph of this large crayfish carrying a load of mud to the top of its burrow.

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