If you came face to face with a fish with dagger-sharp teeth walking around OUTSIDE of the water, what would you do? It seems too bizarre to even think about, but that scary fish exists and it’s on the Invasive Species of Idaho watch list.

Like every other animal or plant on the watchlist, the Snakehead is not native to Idaho. In fact, they don’t even belong in the United States. According to its profile on the Invasive Species of Idaho website, the fish should be found in tropical regions of Africa and Asia. Snakeheads, including the Northern Snakehead, were likely introduced to North America through people dumping their aquariums in lakes, rivers and streams. People who bought them at fish markets or pet shops probably had no idea what they were. 

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What they are in America and Canada is a BIG problem. They have no known predators in North America and will eat everything from zooplankton, invertebrates and other fish to amphibians, small reptiles, birds and mammals. That means they have the potential to totally destroy the natural food chain in Idaho’s waters or drastically reduce the number of some native species that are supposed to be here. 

Snakehead Fish Found In Lake Michigan
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Once they get into a body of water, things can spiral out of control quickly for a couple of reasons. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, unlike many of the fish that you’re familiar with, Snakeheads can spawn multiple times a year. When all is said and done, a single Snakehead may lay up to 1,500 eggs annually. Snakehead parents are known to be aggressive if someone or something tries to mess with their young or babies, so many do mature to a size where native fish aren’t going to try to eat them. 

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The fish freak humans out for a few reasons. First of all, their large scales are arranged similarly to those you’d see on a snake, which is enough to scare anyone who doesn’t like snakes. They do have a mouth full of razor sharp, dagger-like teeth like we mentioned earlier.  The Invasive Species of Idaho website says that some species can reach up to 66 pounds and four feet in length. 

Landwalking "Snakehead" Fish Appears In Philadelphia
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But the thing that earned it nicknames like “Frakenfish” and “Fish-zilla” and spawned horror movies like Snakehead Swamp, Swarm of the Snakehead and Snakehead Terror? The fact that Snakeheads can survive on land for up to four days thanks to their primitive lung! As long as they are wet, they can “walk” up to 400 meters. That’s the equivalent of a high school track. 

While Snakeheads haven’t been spotted in Idaho yet, they could likely thrive in our waters if introduced. That’s why if you think you see or catch one, you should NOT throw it back and report it to the Idaho Invasive Species Hotline at 1-877-336-8676. 

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