Distribution and Conservation Status of the Grandfather Mountain Crayfish

The Grandfather Mountain crayfish (Cambarus eeseeohensis) was described in 2005 from the Linville River in western North Carolina and considered to be endemic to the mainstem Linville River upstream of Linville Falls. Because of its limited distribution and the presence of non-native crayfish in the Linville River watershed, this species was considered imperiled. However, there has been limited survey effort for Grandfather Mountain crayfish and therefore the extent and nature of threats to persistence of the species were mostly unknown. We conducted surveys (n = 41) in 2011 throughout the Linville River watershed and surrounding watersheds to better determine the distribution of the Grandfather Mountain crayfish and assess impacts of exotic crayfishes on this species. We also conducted an evaluation of land ownership and water quality classifications to determine what protections were currently available for conservation of this crayfish. We found Grandfather Mountain crayfish to be widely distributed throughout the Linville River watershed in headwater streams, mid-order tributaries, and the mainstem Linville River. The species was also found in the adjacent Watauga River and Johns River watersheds. Populations of exotic crayfish within the known distribution of Grandfather Mountain crayfish were restricted to small areas and did not appear to be expanding, and Grandfather Mountain crayfish were still extant in areas with exotic crayfish. A large portion of the current range was in public ownership, and a high percentage of streams, had water quality classifications that provide protections. The Grandfather Mountain crayfish appeared to be at low risk of extinction but should remain a priority for monitoring.

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