Invasive species are non-native plants, animals, and microorganisms that, once introduced to a new environment, can rapidly spread and cause harm to the environment, economy, and/or human health.
One way that invasive species are introduced is by release from pet and aquarium owners.
Why be concerned?
Aquatic plants, reptiles, fish, and other animals that become unwanted or too much to handle are sometimes released into nearby waters and parks. Releasing unwanted pets into the wild is inhumane and can be harmful to the environment, as some species can establish populations, take over habitats, and harm native species.
Alternatives to releasing unwanted pets?
- Return your pet to the pet store or wherever the pet was purchased
- Ask if a friend, family member, or someone else will adopt the pet
- Contact local zoos, aquariums, and science centers to see if the animal can be used for educational purposes
- Take your pet to a local animal shelter, sanctuary, or humane society that is willing to take it
- Dry or freeze unwanted aquarium plants before disposing of them in the trash
Check out some of the artwork from the 2017 California Invasive Species Action Week Youth Art Contest, themed “Don’t Let it Loose!”:
For more information about the “Don’t Let it Loose!” campaign and invasive species that commonly establish from human release, check out these "Don’t Let it Loose!” websites:
Ventral side of a northern watersnakes. (Photo by Gary Nafis)
CDFW staff checking traps for invasive watersnakes in 2017
CDFW has implemented an eradication project for northern watersnakes (Nerodia sipedon) in Roseville and for Florida/southern watersnakes (Nerodia fasciata pictiventris) in Folsom. Both species were introduced by pet owner releases; the entire Nerodia genus is now listed as restricted species in California.
For questions or further guidance, contact the Invasive Species Program at Invasives@wildlife.ca.gov or (866) 440-9530 [phone temporarily unavailable; please use email].