Nevada wildlife officials hope that remains of what appears to be a piranha found Monday in a pond in Boulder City represents an isolated case of dumping the flesh-eating, freshwater fish from South America.
If the carcass is confirmed to be a piranha it means someone illegally possessed and released the disreputable creature into one of the ponds at Veterans Memorial Park. More alarming is the possibility that more than one piranha was let loose, based on a witness who said he saw a second similar fish swimming in the water.
Authorities won’t know for sure unless flesh tests are conducted, said state Department of Wildlife spokesman Doug Nielsen.
He said Fish and Game officials were alerted to the find by a Facebook post from Stephen A. Symes of Boulder City Neighborhood Connection.
“Daughter pointed out a fish near the shore,” Symes wrote in the post about a visit to the Veterans park ponds with his wife and daughter accompanied by a picture of a fish carcass. “It looked very sick. I thought to myself that kind of looks like a piranha but that’s crazy. We keep coming around the lake and I find this next to the sidewalk. Now I wish I’d taken a picture of the one that was alive in the water swimming.”
Nielsen, a former game warden who writes an outdoors column for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, said release of a piranha into the wild constitutes “at least three violations of state wildlife law” — importing, possessing and releasing an illegal species.
“If this fish was in fact a piranha, and evidence is found that would give game wardens a direction to pursue, they will investigate this as they do any other wildlife crime,” he said by email.
Each violation of Nevada law carries a minimum fine of $500 and six months in jail.
“The thing we don’t know is just how long it could have survived,” Nielsen said, adding that this could just be the latest incident of a reproducing, invasive species barging into Southern Nevada.
Game wardens have in recent years responded to alligators found in Sunset Park, Flamingo Wash and one that was caught by a striped bass fisherman several years ago at Lake Mead’s Government Wash.
Wildlife officials are also trying to rid the Muddy River of nonnative tilapia, which compete with native fish and the endangered and federally protected Moapa dace.
Contact Keith Rogers at email@example.com or 702-383-0308. Find him on Twitter: @KeithRogers2