BAY COUNTY Fla. (WMBB) – Federal wildlife officials have added the Panama City crayfish to the endangered species list Tuesday.

Without protection, they said the crustacean could become extinct shortly. But local officials said they are trying to keep that from happening.

The Panama City crayfish’s natural habitat is freshwater pine-filled ditches and wetlands. But Hurricane Michael destroyed a lot of those spots. And the remaining areas are too saturated for them to survive.

“We didn’t want to have to federally list it but it still met the criteria for our listing process,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services representative Patty Kelly said. “But I will retire in five years and I would love to leave my career having protected these species.”

A recent study done by the State of Florida shows where red dots indicate the occurrence of crayfish in the Panama City area. Many are near Transmitter Road.

“The crayfish habitat is just east of the Hathaway bridge and it runs east as far as Transmitter,” Chief Infrastructure Officer for Bay County Keith Bryant said. 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife and Bay County are searching for ways to preserve the habitats, like buying two thousand acres of wetlands.

“To establish this area that can be put into long-term conservation, to protect the species and not have that cost passed on to builders and developers,” Bryant said.

But the county needs to get funding in order to buy the land.

“We are setting up an endowment with the help of some of our partners so that money can be used in the property to manage the 22 hundred acres that we intend to get protected,” said Kelly.

Local officials said they do not have a timetable for buying that property.

If you want to see what all you can do to protect the Panama City crayfish, visit http://www.regulations.gov. Under Docket Nos. FWS-R4-ES-2017-0061 and FWS–R4–ES–2020–0137.