By Trish Turner
A few weeks ago I was out in my backyard in Payneville searching for my wandering cat when I noticed a large hole near the barn. I thought it might be a snake hole so I gave it a wide berth. However, as I neared the hole I caught sight of a creature scurrying backwards down the hole. I instinctively let out a scream, but then checked myself. It had not come out and grabbed me, so I guess I was okay.
Later that day I told my brother-in-law upstairs (my husband and I share a home with his sister and her husband) about the smooth hole with a creature in it and he told me that while he was mowing he noticed there were two similar holes in the front yard.
I went out to the front yard that evening and sure enough, there were two smoothly dug holes. I also noticed something looking out at me, and I could swear it was a crab. When I went inside and told that to my sister-in-law she laughed, as did other people I later told the story to. Crabs don't live in yards in Kentucky!
By now my curiosity was really piqued as to what could be residing in the holes. After doing a search on the Internet I decided that maybe it was a wolf spider. It would have to be a very large one, but that's what I convinced myself it was.
The next day I was walking around the perimeter of our property, taking lots of pictures of flowers. I spied my next door neighbor and asked him how he and his family were doing and casually mentioned the holes in our yard and the unknown creatures that lived in them. He then told me that he had crawdads (crayfish) living beneath his porch. Okay, now I knew for sure crayfish had to live with a water source. How could they be living in his yard?
I did some more research on the Internet that night and began to wonder if we might not have crayfish living in the holes in our yard also. A discovery the next morning bolstered my theory. In front of the hole in our back yard I found two claws. Something must have eaten the creature within. Back to my computer I went and found several pictures on the Internet of crayfish that had claws that matched the ones I had found.
Later that night my sister-in-law was looking at the holes in the front yard and she tried to take a picture of whatever was living in them. She saw something scurry back down the hole and said it had claws. So, I was not crazy after all, someone else had seen it! I also tried to get pictures of the creature but the flash was not working on my camera when I zoomed in and if I got too close to the creature it backed down the hole. I did get one picture that confirmed that it was a crayfish. It had small beady eyes, tentacles, and claws.
Now I was curious as to why crayfish might be living in our lawn. I wondered if this was a common occurrence in Kentucky. Mind you, I had lived in New England, Utah and Florida where crayfish were only found in streams. In fact, as a young girl in New England I had great fun catching and releasing them. I Googled crayfish in yards in Kentucky and was surprised to find an article about a man who used to catch them in his yard in Bullitt County when he was a boy. The man shared how he would fish for the crayfish using a string with a piece of bacon tied to the end. The crayfish would grab onto it with his claws and he would pull it out of the hole. He also mentioned that he noticed that crows liked to catch and eat the crayfish. There possibly were more holes further back in the overgrown part of our yard where it sloped down to an area that becomes marshy when it rains. I had seen flocks of crows patrolling that area lately and decided that maybe a crow had eaten the crayfish in the hole where I found the claws.
For good measure I sent a query by email to the Meade County Extension Office asking if it was normal to have crayfish in your yard here in Meade County. I got an email back from Andy Mills with a link to a site from Virginia that tells you how to deal with crayfish in your lawns. In case anyone else has an issue with crayfish in their yard the link is https://ext.vt.edu/lawn-garden/turfandgardentips/tips/crayfish-in-lawns.html.
I haven't looked for my little alien creatures lately. I decided that they weren't bothering me, so I would not keep bothering them by trying to take their picture. If they want to keep living in our lawn they are welcome to it. Instead, I have been taking advantage of some rare cool evenings and sit outside and watch the fireflies come out. I have even spied some new creatures, cottontail rabbits. They are welcome creatures to our yard, as long as they don't eat from my garden!