Alien killer fish were pets
July 11, 2002
BALTIMORE, Maryland (Reuters) -- A colony of alien killer fish that have turned up in a Maryland pond between Baltimore and Washington are the offspring of two discarded specimens that were raised as pets, state officials said Thursday.
The state Department of Natural Resources said a Maryland resident bought two northern snakeheads in New York and dumped them into a small pond in Anne Arundel County more than two years ago when they were no longer wanted.
Crews from U.S. Fish and Wildlife searched for more northern snakeheads amid the pond's lilies and duckweed Thursday, using electric prods to discharge electric shocks capable of bringing the fish to the surface.
Northern snakeheads are predators native to China's Yangtze River region that state environmental officials say could devour local wildlife. The fish grow to lengths of three feet, can live out of the water for three days and are described being able to "walk" short distances on their fins.
Officials fear a significant threat to native species including crabs and clams, if the fish managed to enter the
Little Patuxent River 75 feet away from the pond.
The resident who dumped the northern snakeheads into the 9-acre pond in a former gravel pit near Crofton,
Maryland, cannot be charged under a state law barring the introduction of non-native species to Maryland because of a two-year statute of limitations, state officials said.
The first northern snakehead spotted at the pond was caught by a local angler on May 15, photographed and thrown back. Another angler said he caught a 26-inch fish and found seven more just like it on Monday.
An official from the Maryland state Department of Natural Resources holds a juvenile northern snakehead Thursday in Annapolis.