SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's Department of Wildlife Resources is warning people about releasing pets into the wild.
DWR officials said Wednesday that the dumping of animals into local lakes or rivers can have "damaging ramifications," in addition to being illegal.
During their most recent state survey to get data on fish population numbers, DWR biologists found two waterbodies with illegal fish, and koi in two community ponds in Central Utah.
Illegal dumping of pet animals, or by an angler hoping to introduce a species into a lake or reservoir, "can wreak havoc on the ecosystem of that fishery," the department said.
"Any illegal introduction of a fish into a waterbody is harmful and can have numerous negative consequences," DWR Sportfish Coordinator Randy Oplinger said. "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."
Illegal dumping is a class A misdemeanor in Utah.
Officials also warned Utah residents about keeping illegal reptile species as pets in the state. They cited a Springville man who had been keeping rattlesnakes as pets before a search warrant was served in November and the man received several class B misdemeanors.
CLICK HERE for more from the DWR about the illegal ditching of pets.