By Alex DeMetrick

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Vanished or merely hiding? The invasive Chinese mitten crab hasn’t been seen in the Chesapeake Bay since 2012. That’s a good thing because they’re capable of making trouble, including with the way they reproduce.

“Sort of like a locust or cicada. It goes through major population outbreaks where it becomes wildly abundant,” said Greg Ruiz, a scientist with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center.

It happened in the San Francisco Bay in 1998 when mitten crabs reproduced by the hundreds of thousands, from what had earlier been a single sighting. They too vanished — or did they? Which begs the quuestion, are they really out of the Chesapeake Bay?

“We don’t know,” Ruiz said. “And it’s a big mystery and we’re asking the public to help us.”

SERC has set up a mitten crab watch website for people to report a sighting. It isn’t just the bay where people should be looking.

“It can go quite far. 1,000 kilometers, that’s 600 miles or so inland, and spend a couple of years in low salinity water,” Ruiz said.

If they should explode in numbers, they could clog the intakes of power plants. They also burrow into river banks, triggering erosion.

According to Ruiz, “One concern is it could compete with the blue crab for food and habitat.”

If it’s here.

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