‘Kill it immediately.’ 3-foot long fish that can live on land found in Georgia waters

An invasive Chinese fish that can live days on land has been found in Georgia, and state wildlife officials are warning 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, Georgia Department of Natural Resources officials said in a news release.

How it got there is a mystery, but Georgia is now among the 14 states where snakeheads have shown up uninvited and unwanted, Georgia officials said.

“If you think you’ve caught a northern snakehead... kill it immediately and freeze it,” Georgia wildlife officials warned in a press release. “They can also breathe air allowing them to survive on land and in low oxygenated systems.”

The federal Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force reports 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 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 site says.

Snakeheads grow to 3 feet and have a “voracious” appetite that includes not just other fish but “birds and mammals,” according to the task force.

Georgia wildlife officials suspect the snakehead found there was likely “introduced through unauthorized release,” rather than wiggling to the pond.

“In Georgia, it is unlawful to import, transport, sell, transfer, or possess any species of snakehead fish without a valid wild animal license,” officials said in the release.

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Mark Price has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1991, covering beats including schools, crime, immigration, the LGBTQ issues, homelessness and nonprofits. He graduated from the University of Memphis with majors in journalism and art history, and a minor in geology.