TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Wildlife officials are warning the public about illegal dumping after a non-native fish was caught at a lake in southern Arizona.
Arizona Game and Fish officials confirm the fish, caught at a lake in Christopher Columbus Park, was a Pacu. It's related to the Piranha and originates from South America.
Pacus can be distinguished by their human-like teeth and can grow very large in size. According to Sciencing.com, they can can reach three feet in length when they reach adulthood, but keep growing throughout their lives.
Game and Fish officials said they believe the invasive fish was dumped at the lake, either by someone who owned it as a pet or a fisherman who caught it elsewhere.
"People are reluctant to return a pet like that or put down a pet like that. They want to think it can lead a normal life if they just dump it in a waterway without considering the impact to the wildlife that's already in the water," said Mart Hart, a spokesman for the department.
Regardless of how the fish got there, Hart said it shouldn't be there as it could cause serious damage to our local ecosystem.
Hart says invasive fish can crowd out local species by altering the habitats they invade. They can also destroy the state's efforts to restore native fish.
"You've introduced fish from elsewhere into a community that may be stocked with sport fish for anglers or where we're trying to restore native fish," Hart said.