By Jack Edwards
Loyal readers know that I nearly lost my life at Crater Lake National Park last summer hanging on by my butt cheeks as I traversed Rim Drive to brave my way to the Rim Village Gift Shop (AKA Future Garage Sale Item Warehouse). I have not been eager to return, but my help may now be needed to address the rapidly emerging Crayfish Crisis recently reported by journalist Lee Juillerat of the Klamath Fall’s Herald and News. It appears that a Rumble Down Under is in full swing. The lake’s crayfish are locked in an epic battle with the lake’s newts. So far, it’s a bit lopsided. It looks like a battle between Seal Team Six and the Cloistered Sisters of Perpetual Peace.
Crater Lake newts aren’t just any pedestrian newt. They are special Mazama Newts, only found in Crater Lake. They are darker than the common newt and “less toxic” (just ask any Crater Lake crayfish). No one knows how these newts got into the lake, but scientists believe they may have been there for thousands of years. The crayfish on the other hand are nothing but a bunch of crustacean carpetbaggers. They arrived in 1915 and have been swaggering around acting like they own the place ever since. “[Y]ou can hardly pick up a rock without finding one,” the article quotes Mark Buktenica, who worked as Crater Lake National Park’s aquatic biologist for 30 years. These crayfish are the pit bull of crustaceans. Juillerat’s article references a YouTube video that depicts crayfish as, “voracious, efficient killers” presenting a scene “reminiscent of a horror movie.”
Proof, the scientists say, that the crayfish are driving out the Mazama newt, is that the newts used to hang out near the lake shore sipping tiny umbrella drinks and mugging for park visitors, but now the only places you can find newts are the few places where the crayfish thugs have not yet arrived. While I am not a fully licensed crustacean biologist, I have my own theory. It’s called “Mazama newt flight.” I think the Mazama newts, with all their old money and traditional ways, are simply stuck-up and think they’re too good to live near the crayfish. The newts are packing up their tiny station wagons and moving deeper into the lake. Scientists have spotted them living 820 feet beneath the surface living in miniature three bedroom, two bath subdivisions. (Okay, the article only mentions the newts found at 820 feet. Mr. Juillerat was vague on their accommodations, leaving me draw logical inferences).
Park aquatic biologist, Scott Girdner is quoted in Juillerat’s article pondering the effectiveness of possible solutions, “We don’t know if anything would be successful. Will newts exist or be driven to extinction.” I think I speak for everyone who never heard of a Mazama newt before reading this article – I don’t want to even THINK of living in a world without Mazama newts.
Lucky for everybody, I visited New Orleans last year. The New Orleans City Code requires every resident to consume twice their body weight in crayfish each year. Crayfish are in every dish that comes out of the kitchen except chocolate cake – and I think I even had a piece of that with a crayfish that tripped and fell headlong into the batter. So here’s my plan. We import a team of crack, yet rotund, Cajun chefs from New Orleans and turn them loose in Crater Lake National Park. Trust me on this folks, crayfish are De-Lish. Within a month, the only surviving crayfish left in Crater Lake will be wearing Mazama newt disguises and tiptoeing lightly near the nether reaches of Wizard Island. I’m already suggesting they rename the place Gumbo Crater Lake National Park. Visitor numbers will shoot through the roof. And they can use the extra money to finally fix that deathtrap they call Rim Drive.