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Confiscated northern snakehead makes one last attempt at escape

Bob Frye
| Sunday, April 27, 2003

The northern snakehead's reputation as a tough customer got a boost recently, courtesy of an escape attempt made by one fish.

Northern snakeheads, which are originally from Asia but have been found in Maryland and other states, can get big -- up to 40 inches and 15 pounds -- and have a large mouth and big teeth. As a result, they can sometimes out-compete native fish species. That's why it is illegal to sell, offer for sale, purchase, possess or transport live snakeheads in Pennsylvania.

They had never been found in the state -- until recently, that is.

An officer at the U.S. Army War College, in Carlisle, bought a snakehead out of state, brought it here, then tried to sell it on the Internet. The PF&BC got wind of it, and a waterways conservation officer seized it.

He took it to the PF&BC's Harrisburg headquarters, where it was placed in an aquarium, said Dennis Guise, the agency's Deputy Executive Director. It didn't stay there long.

"(The officer) came in the next morning and the aquarium was empty," Guise said.

The snakehead had jumped out of the tank and crawled across the lobby floor before dying.

"Snakeheads can live out of the water for several weeks as long as they're on a moist surface. Apparently, our carpet didn't qualify," Guise said.

"But it just goes to show what exotic species can do."

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