A clawed creature was seen in North Carolina for the first time — and experts urge you to be on the lookout for more of them.
The state’s first confirmed blue land crab sighting was over the summer. A photo shared on Facebook shows a member of the species extending its left claw from a tire in Emerald Isle, a popular beach town roughly 145 miles southeast of Raleigh.
Now, two months after the town of Emerald Isle announced its sighting, state officials on Sept. 20 encouraged people to keep an eye out.
“There has been a spate of recent reports of blue land crabs spotted in North Carolina and South Carolina, and biologists are requesting public assistance to help them learn more about where the non-native species is spreading by reporting any sightings,” the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries wrote in a news release.
But experts warn that the creatures are “elusive,” and their speed and claws make them “difficult to catch.” You may have luck with spotting one after a burst of heavy rain, which can make the crustaceans leave their burrows.
Blue land crabs are larger than fiddler crabs, with shells up to 6 inches long. And contrary to what their name suggests, the creatures can be several colors, including blue, purple, orange, brown, white and gray, according to state officials and the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
How to report crab sightings
Anyone who spots a blue land crab is urged to take a picture and write down the time and place of the sighting. That information can be shared online with the Division of Natural Resources in South Carolina as it gathers information on sightings in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.
As people are asked to come forward, officials said blue land crabs crabs aren’t native to the Carolinas. Researchers are still trying to determine the potential impact of their presence in the two states.
“The blue land crab is native along the Atlantic coast from Brazil to South Florida, but occasional sightings of the large crabs have been reported in South Carolina since 2008,” officials in North Carolina wrote.
The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries didn’t immediately share additional information with McClatchy News on Sept. 28.