Releasing Wildlife into Massachusetts Waters is Harmful and Illegal

From Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife

Recent illegal releases of live turtles, frogs, fish and other aquatic wildlife into Massachusetts’ waters in the greater Boston area have prompted state wildlife officials to remind the public that these actions are illegal. Relocating aquatic wildlife into Massachusetts’ waters often results in harm to the released animals, to the aquatic life in the water and to the waterbody’s ecosystem.

On January 12, 2020, Middlesex Fells Reservation staff received a report of people releasing large frogs, turtles and eels into Spot Pond in Stoneham. After taking photographs of the frogs, staff notified the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife). MassWildlife biologists believe the animals, identified as American bullfrogs, were most likely farm-raised. Officials recovered 24 live frogs, two Chinese softshell turtles (one live and one dead) and 5 dead carp from Spot Pond. Environmental Police, State Police and MassWildlife are investigating. A second report was made to the New England Aquarium on January 13, 2020. Non-native softshell turtles were found washed up on Wollaston Beach in Quincy. MassWildlife and the Massachusetts Environmental Police (MEP) were notified. The MEP collected four animals on Tuesday and two more were collected the following day.

Liberating wildlife in lakes and wetlands is not only illegal, but also harmful to the aquatic wildlife living in the water. In some cases, the non-native animals will thrive and out-compete the native aquatic wildlife. Disease threats are also a key conservation concern. Disease introduction to a pond or wetland can result in the infection, spread and widespread death of native amphibians. In some cases, these diseases can infect reptiles and fish.

American bullfrogs are a primary carrier of harmful amphibian diseases such as ranavirus and chytrid fungus. Ranavirus infection in amphibians causes death in larvae or recently metamorphosed individuals. Ranaviruses are an emerging disease of major conservation concern for native wildlife in our area.

Chytrid, a fungus affecting amphibians, can result in a disease called chytridiomycosis. Foreign strains of chytridiomyscosis are currently considered the second highest global threat to amphibians. Habitat loss and destruction is the greatest threat to amphibian population existence.

Report violations at any time by contacting the Massachusetts Environmental Police (MEP) dispatch at 1-800-632-8075. Descriptions or images of people, license plates and vehicles are helpful. During business hours, report violations to the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) at 508-389-6300.

Media Contact: Marion Larson, MassWildlife 508-389-6311 [email protected]


Massachusetts Junior Conservation Camp Registration Open Now

Teens who like the outdoors will love Conservation Camp. They will have fun and make friends while learning about forests, wildlife, fish, plants, archery, shooting sports, boating and other outdoor skills. Registration for the Massachusetts Junior Conservation Camp (MJCC) has opened and will continue through May 1, 2020. The MJCC is a 2-week session taking place at the Moses Scout Reservation in Russell, MA from August 2-14, 2020. The camp is a great opportunity for 120 young people ages 13-17 with an interest in nature and the outdoors to try new skills, enhance current skills and learn about natural resource conservation and responsible use of the environment. Natural resource professionals from environmental agencies provide hands-on experiences and demonstrations on wildlife, fisheries, forest fire control and forest management. Experienced and enthusiastic outdoors men and women offer skills learning such as fishing, camping, wild foods from field to table, archery and firearms training. Certifications in Hunter Education and Boating Safety are also part of the curriculum. In the evening, campers participate in demonstrations of outdoor skills and nature-based topics. Tuition is $1,000, but the majority of campers are eligible to receive full scholarships from sporting clubs and conservation organizations across the state. For more information on groups with camp scholarships: