Don’t release pet fish, reptiles into Utah’s wilderness, says DWR

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – If you were thinking about letting your pet fish or turtle into the wild, don’t. Maybe you want to capture a wild species to keep as a pet? Don’t do that either, according to Utah wildlife officials.

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During their annual spring survey of Utah’s various lakes and streams, biologists from the Division of Wildlife Resources discovered sights they hate to see – two waterbodies had fish illegally dumped into them.

Koi were found in to community ponds in centeral Utah, Highland Glen and Manila, but biologists are unsure when the fish were put in.

Dumping a different species into a Utah waterbody is not just illegal, but can wreak havoc on the ecosystem, according to Utah DWR. Since 2015, DWR conservation officers have investigated 17 cases where someone illegally transported live fish.

“Any illegal introduction of a fish into a waterbody is harmful and can have numerous negative consequences,” DWR Sportfish Coordinator Randy Oplinger says. “Illegal fish species can prey on and outcompete other fish species, including sportfish, native fish and endangered fish species. They can also introduce disease and negatively impact water quality. It is very expensive and takes a long time — often requiring rotenone treatments that kill all the fish — to restore these waterbodies after fish have been illegally introduced. Illegal fish introductions seldom improve fisheries — instead, illegal introductions typically ruin fisheries and threaten the species that live there. ”

Keeping certain reptile species as pets in Utah without a certificate of registration, granted by the DWR, is also illegal.

In October, DWR officers received information about a man keeping several rattlesnakes transported from Arizona, in his Springville home. In November, the illegally housed reptiles were seized and the man was cited with several misdemeanors.

Some of the illegal species that have been seized during DWR investigations include:

  • Alligator
  • Caimen (a reptile in the alligator family)
  • Cobras 
  • Desert tortoise (these can be adopted through the DWR, but are threatened and illegal to take from the wild)
  • Gaboon viper
  • Great Basin rattlesnakes
  • North Pacific rattlesnake
  • Puff adder
  • Uracoan rattlesnake
  • Western diamondback

If you see any invasive fish or reptile species, or see anyone illegally introducing fish into a waterbody or releasing non-native reptiles, you can report it at 1-800-662-3337. For more about the consequences of illegal fish introductions in Utah, click here.

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