A fish recently found in Georgia has wildlife officials stirred up. In fact, they’re advising anyone who sees a northern snakehead to kill it on sight.
That death sentence might sound extreme, but there’s good reason for it. The northern snakehead, which can survive for brief periods on land and breathe air, is an invasive species in North America. With one specimen found in a privately owned pond in Gwinnett County, the state wants to take swift action to make certain the fish, which is native to East Asia, doesn’t continue to spread. Non-native species can upset local ecosystems by competing with native species for food and habitat.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division is advising people who encounter the snakehead—a long, splotchy-brown fish that can reach 3 feet in length—to kill it and freeze it, then report the catch to the agency's fisheries office.
Wildlife authorities believe snakeheads wind up in non-native areas as a result of the aquarium trade or food industry. A snakehead was recently caught in southwestern Pennsylvania. The species has been spotted in 14 states.