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Goldfish illegally dumped in Giant Springs State Park

Two non-native goldfish were found swimming in one of the creeks
Posted at 4:01 PM, Jun 28, 2024

In Giant Springs State Park earlier this month, keen-eyed park visitors noticed two goldfish that had been illegally dumped swimming around in one of the creeks.

They recognized that these fish weren’t native to the area and quickly brought it to the attention of park managers. The managers were able to remove both fish, and rehome them safely.

While you might think releasing your aquatic pet into the wild to be free is a good idea, it often means a painful death for the pet and disruption to local ecosystems. Belonging to the carp family, goldfish aren’t native to Montana and haven’t adapted to the environment and aren’t likely to survive long.

Dave Hagengruber, Communication and Education Program Manager for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region 4, explained, “It's kind of a cruel thing. I mean, they're going to starve to death or freeze in the winter if the pond freezes out.”

If the fish do survive, Hagengruber says, “They're going to be competing against the native minnows and the native fish that would be here for food, for habitat, for all those things. So they could edge some of those species out.”

The problem stems beyond just goldfish, with pet owners sometimes releasing their pet turtles, frogs, and snakes into the wild, where they are not adapted to live, and either die or outcompete the native wildlife for resources.

Snapping turtles, for example, are not native to Montana west of the Continental Divide, and are often dumped as unwanted pets in waterways, causing damage to the smaller, native turtle population and other pond-dwelling species.

Hagengruber says, “Bullfrogs are a common one. Bullfrogs eat the native frogs. They get so much bigger they can just outcompete those and eat them. So all those things, you know, it's just it's a bad idea to release any sort of pet into the wild. That's not where they're meant to go.”

If you do find yourself unable to care for your aquatic pet, the best course of action is to rehome them. There are several resources for rehoming - click here for details.