SCORES of endangered White-clawed crayfish have been found dead in an Eden beck.

Alasdair Brock, head of conservation at Eden Rivers Trust, said the incident at Scale Beck, upstream of Rutter Force, near Appleby, had occurred because of a pollutant which had been transported via groundwater in the area.

He estimated the number of dead White-clawed crayfish to to be more than 100, and possibly a lot higher.

According to Eden Rivers Trust the crustacean - the UK’s only native breed of crayfish - is considered to be a keystone species, meaning that it is crucial to the functioning of the ecosystem.

However, it is now under threat, particularly from the American Signal crayfish, which carries a disease that is deadly to the white-clawed variety.

Mr Brock said: “This is a real blow to the stability of the endangered White-clawed crayfish population in the Eden. Eden Rivers Trust will do anything we can to help the Environment Agency to investigate and resolve this pollution incident.

“The extent of the recovery of Scale Beck’s crayfish from this incident is hard to determine at this time.

“The population of crayfish upstream may move downstream to re-colonises this area, but this will be dependent on whether their sources of food, such as small insects and water plants, were also wiped out.

“In the longer-term, we are keen to work with landowners in this area to explore measures that can be implemented to protect the river habitat from all types of pollution.”

The Trust called on members of the public to be vigilant. It said if dead animals or fish were spotted in rivers, or if the water looked a suspicious colour, then it should be reported to the Environment Agency on 800 807060.