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The first published record of Cambarus Zophonastes was by Hobbs and Bedinger in 1961. They discovered 5 of the organisms in Hell Creek Cave. Then, in 2006, Dr. GraeningHell Creek Cave and his colleagues found a second population in Nesbitt Cave. Both caves are in Stone County Arkansas. To this day, it is believed that the Hell Creek Cave Crayfish have a total range of less than .5 square km (Graening et al. 2006). There have been searches in over 170 nearby caves and 20 nearby streams and none have yielded any new locations for our elusive crustacean. Both areas are located in the Ozark Plateau and have similar climates and ecology. The mean temperature in January is 34.9 degrees Fahrenheit and the mean temperature in July is 71.9 degrees Fahrenheit. It has an average of 45.20 inches of precipitation per year (Wladimir Köppen, 2011).

The crayfish lives in narrow, freshwater, subterranean streams, and pools in the caves. The waters are usually one to two meters wide, and about 8 meters deep. The water temperature at the time of sampling was 58.1 degrees Fahrenheit (Graening et al. 2006). Many crayfish are burrowers, having adapted to dig down into the sides of a mud-bank; but because the Hell Creek Cave Crayfish live in solid limestone caves, they do not burrow but still hide behind rocks and other natural crevices. They do not like fast moving waters and usually are found in small pools, or on the banks of the stream where the water is calmer. Hell Creek Cave is a large network of tunnels thousands of meters long, ending in an underwater cavern only accessible to divers. In the early 1900’s there was a 175 foot mining shaft drilled down into the cave, and although it is no longer in use, it still allows organic matter and non cave-dwelling organisms to get into the deeper portions of the cave.

The crayfish and the caves they inhabit have not yet been fully studied, but in an exploration in 2004, Brian K. Wagner and his colleagues did an explorative dive into Nesbitt cave. During their dive they found sculpins, a few six to eight inch rock bass, lucifuga, a surface crayfish (assumed to be Orconectes neglectes chaenodactylus), 6 central stonerollers, and three unidentified bats (likely Grey Bats) (Wagner. B.K, et al. 2004).
The Hell Creek Cave Crayfish is critically endangered and (estimated to have fewer than 50 left in existence). There are many factors that contribute to their decline in numbers, but wildlife activists are trying to help revitalize the population. The Hell Creek Crayfish, like most other crayfish, are extremely sensitive to their environment and pollutants have a severe effect on them. Both caves are downstream from Mountain View City, so the stream is contaminated with sewage, silt from construction sites, and chemical spills. The cave has a recharge zone (area that drains into the stream) of approximately 906 hectares. (Natural Heritage, 2009).

Hell Creek Cave
There is already such a small number of the crayfish, and they are vulnerable to being killed (stepped on) or removed by tourists visiting the area (IUCN, 2010). The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has implemented the “Action Plan for Hell's Creek Cave" which includes the installation of cave gates, fences around the area, and a monitoring program. The local newspapers also wrote an article on the crayfish letting the public know how endangered they were and urged everyone to not trespass on the area or remove any of the organisms. The USFWS stated there will be a regulated update on the crayfish and its habitat. (Graening et al, 2006) The more information officials can get about the crayfish, the more efficiently they will be able to be protected.