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News Releasing wildlife into Massachusetts waters is harmful and illegal

State wildlife officials remind public to protect native wildlife and report violations.
2/04/2020
  • Division of Fisheries and Wildlife

Media Contact for Releasing wildlife into Massachusetts waters is harmful and illegal

Marion Larson, MassWildlife

Spiny softshell turtle and carp found at Spot pond

Recent illegal releases of live turtles, frogs, fish, and other aquatic wildlife into Massachusetts waters in the Greater Boston area have prompted state wildlife officials to remind the public that these actions are illegal. Relocating aquatic wildlife into Massachusetts’ waters often results in harm to the released animals, to the aquatic life in the water, and to the waterbody’s ecosystem.

On January 12, 2020, Middlesex Fells Reservation staff received a report of people releasing large frogs, turtles, and eels into Spot Pond in Stoneham. After taking photographs of the frogs, staff notified the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife). MassWildlife biologists believe the animals, identified as American bullfrogs, were most likely farm-raised. Officials recovered 24 live frogs, two Chinese softshell turtles, (one live and one dead) and 5 dead carp from Spot Pond. Environmental Police, State Police, and MassWildlife are investigating. A second report was made to the New England Aquarium on January 13, 2020. Non-native softshell turtles were found washed up on Wollaston Beach in Quincy. MassWildlife and the Massachusetts Environmental Police (MEP) were notified. The MEP collected four animals on Tuesday and two more were collected the following day.

Liberating wildlife in lakes and wetlands is not only illegal, but also harmful to the aquatic wildlife living in the water. In some cases, the non-native animals will thrive and out-compete the native aquatic wildlife. Disease threats are also a key conservation concern. Disease introduction to a pond or wetland can result in the infection, spread, and widespread death of native amphibians. In some cases, these diseases can infect reptiles and fish.

American bullfrogs are a primary carrier of harmful amphibian diseases such as ranaviruses and chytrid fungus. Ranaviruses are highly infectious and can spread to insects, fish, amphibians, and turtles. Ranavirus infection in amphibians causes death in larvae or recently metamorphosed individuals. Ranaviruses are an emerging disease of major conservation concern for native wildlife in our area.

Chytrid, a fungus affecting amphibians, can result in a disease called chytridiomycosis. Foreign strains of chytridiomycosis are potentially fatal to native species. Chytridiomycosis is currently considered the second highest global threat to amphibians. Habitat loss and destruction is the greatest threat to amphibian population existence.

Report violations at any time by contacting the Massachusetts Environmental Police (MEP) dispatch at 1-800-632-8075. Descriptions or images of people, license plates, and vehicles are helpful. During business hours, report violations to the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) at 508-389-6300.

Media Contact for Releasing wildlife into Massachusetts waters is harmful and illegal

Division of Fisheries and Wildlife 

MassWildlife is responsible for the conservation of freshwater fish and wildlife in the Commonwealth, including endangered plants and animals. MassWildlife restores, protects, and manages land for wildlife to thrive and for people to enjoy.
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