WASHINGTON - Maryland officials are warning people about a non-native species of crabs that has been reported in the Chesapeake Bay.
Native to China and the Korean peninsula, fish and wildlife experts are concerned about Chinese Mitten Crabs because they could alter the ecosystem and compete directly with other important crab species for food while also eating eggs of native fish.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have been working together to investigate the status of these crabs.
On its Facebook page, the Anne Arundel County Department of Public Works says Chinese Mitten Crabs can be identified by their furry white-tipped claws that resemble mittens. Adults have light brown to olive green round bodies that are three to four inches wide known as carapaces. The carapace is smooth and has four lateral spines. They also have a u-shaped notch between their eyes.
These crabs can be found in both freshwater and saltwater.
If you do catch a Chinese Mitten Crab, you should not throw it back into the water alive. Wildlife officials would also like for you to assist them by reporting where it was found.
If possible, officials are also asking people for help by freezing these crabs with ice or preserving them in rubbing alcohol in order to capture closeup photos of them. These photos can be uploaded to mittencrab.nisbase.org for identification.