Even creepier than the catfish that hunts pigeons on land, is the toothy northern snakehead, a carnivorous fish that grows to at least three feet in length, can breathe air and can survive for up to four days out of water. It can survive for even longer periods in mud and moist environments. Oh, and it travels over land by wriggling its body along the ground.
And it has come to New York City’s Central Park.
(Insert scream, here.)
The fish that is making wildlife agencies skittish is an invasive species native to China, Russia and Korea. Snakeheads are top predators and feed ravenously on other fish as well as frogs, crayfish and aquatic insects. (Your puppies and children are safe. Probably.)
To make things worse, it's a fish with no natural predators in the U.S., it can spawn multiple times every year, and females release tens of thousands of eggs with each batch.
So, basically, they're huge, walking carnivorous fish that can live outside of water, have no predators, and possess a remarkable reproductive rate. Incredibly cool in an evolutionary sense, but at the same time: Houston, we have a problem.
Ever since reports first surfaced of one of the freaky fish being spotted in the Harlem Meer, a lake in the northeast corner of Central Park, environmental officials have conducted surveys of the water, with a new survey planned for this week. Signs have been posted warning anglers to beware: if spotted, they should "secure the fish" and "keep it in a secure container until it is picked up by officials."
Snakeheads are sold in the U.S. both as food in Asian markets and as pets, and reproducing populations of snakeheads have now been discovered in Maryland, California and Florida in addition to New York. Individual fish have also been caught in Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Hawaii.
The escapees are thought to have been purchased as pets, then set loose by owners who no longer wish to keep them. However, in one remarkable story a Maryland man ordered a pair of live snakeheads from a market in New York's Chinatown to prepare a traditional soup to cure his ill sister. By the time the fish arrived, his sister had recovered, and he released them into a local pond. Oops.
Last spring, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Inland Fisheries set a $200 bounty for the successful capture and killing of any northern snakehead. (Perhaps New York should consider a similar reward?) In the meantime, enter Central Park at your own risk.
NBC reports in the video below:
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