GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. (CBS Local) — An invasive fish species that can breathe air and survive on land has been found in Georgia and state wildlife officials are urging people to “kill it immediately” if they see one.
Northern snakeheads are native to China’s Yangtze River, but one was caught this month in a private pond in Gwinnett County northeast of Atlanta, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division said Tuesday.
“Thanks to the quick report by an angler, our staff was able to investigate and confirm the presence of this species in this water body,” said Matt Thomas, chief of fisheries for the Wildlife Resources Division. “We are now taking steps to determine if they have spread from this water body and, hopefully, keep it from spreading to other Georgia waters.”
A snakehead fish is considered a non-native invasive species, which means it affects native species by competing for food and habitat. Georgia is now among the 14 states where snakeheads have shown up uninvited and unwanted, officials said.
“If you think you’ve caught a northern snakehead… kill it immediately and freeze it,” Georgia wildlife officials warned. “If possible, take pictures of the fish, including close ups of its mouth, fins and tail (and) note where it was caught.”
Snakeheads have “an air bladder” that helps them “to survive for up to four days out of the water.” If it can find mud to burrow into, they’ll live even longer, the federal Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force reports.
“This unique adaptation and their ability to travel over land to new bodies of water by wiggling their bodies over the ground, gives the snakehead a competitive edge over other fishes,” the task force’s website says.