- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 5, 2002

CROFTON, Md. The day of reckoning finally came for the nonnative snakehead fish yesterday, as Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) workers fed the predator what they hope will be its last meal: 16 gallons of poison.
Snakeheads and other fish jumped and flopped around shortly after crews began applying the rotenone, which state officials said is not harmful to humans or land animals, about 7 a.m.
The poison is absorbed through the gills and interferes with the animal's ability to process oxygen. It's expected to kill thousands of crappies, sunfish and bluegills along with the snakeheads in the next few days.
"It feels to them like they simply can't breathe. So, they're looking for air," said Michael Slattery, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, pointing to a four-inch snakehead popping its head above the surface.
Killing all the fish in the four-acre pond may take several days, said Eric Schwaab, director of the fisheries service for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
"Hopefully, this will be the last installation in the snakehead saga," Mr. Schwaab said. "This is a cleanup process that has been thrust upon us. We're not happy about it."
He said the total cost for the cleanup now stands at about $50,000.
More than 100 juvenile snakeheads, most of them about three inches long, floated to the surface either dead or on their last legs by midday. DNR officials also caught one 18-inch-long adult snakehead, according to spokesman John Surrick.
The voracious appetite of the snakehead was apparent when one four-inch snakehead was cut open and a whole inch-long sunfish and a whole mosquito fish, similar to a minnow, were found in its stomach.
Mr. Surrick said the adult snakehead was likely the second of the original pair dumped in the pond in 2000 by a Maryland resident who had bought the fish on the New York live-fish market. Those two snakeheads spawned, resulting in hundreds and possibly thousands of offspring in the pond, according to the DNR.
The first snakehead adult fish was caught by an angler on May 18 and released after the angler was unable to identify the fish. He did take a picture, and the DNR later identified the 18-inch fish as a snakehead.
On June 30, 2002, Joe Gillespie of Crofton caught a 26-inch snakehead, which he has since kept frozen in preparation for mounting. The Washington Times first reported that on July 8, Mr. Gillespie caught eight more snakeheads, all juveniles, with a net.
The snakehead, which is native to China, is considered a dangerous species because of its voracious appetite. Officials are concerned the predator could wipe out every other species in the pond and spread to the nearby Little Patuxent River.
The fish is able to crawl along the ground on its belly and fins, and can live for several days out of water.
Mr. Schwaab reiterated that they were confident no snakeheads had escaped the poisoned pond.
DNR personnel will be at the pond for several days to collect dead fish, which will be bagged and taken to the Anne Arundel landfill, Mr. Surrick said.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.


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