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]