During the last week of August, Gary Owen, a Charles County sheriff’s corporal, discovered 167 snakeheads swimming in two puddles off Sharpersville Road near Mattawoman Creek in Maryland. Mattawoman Creek is a tidal tributary of the Potomac River located in Prince George’s and Charles Counties. The sheriff’s corporal was not actually on the look-out for invasive species when he did his unexpected discovery; he was leading a news crew to a location where a homicide victim was found almost 30 years ago.

The group of 167 snakeheads, who inhabited two puddles under a tree stump, consisted of two adult fish and 165 youngsters. The two adults were a male and a pregnant female. When the finding was reported to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, they decided to kill all fishes and take them to their laboratory for further examination.

Mattawoman Creek is considered one of the best creeks for bass fishing on the East Coasts and anglers now worry that snakeheads might cause injury to the bass populations by competing for the same prey or by preying on smaller bass.

Snakeheads are not a natural part of the Maryland fauna; they hail from Africa and South East Asia, and conversationalists fear that these skilled predators could disrupt native ecosystems if there were allowed to establish themselves in the U.S. Snakeheads became the centre of quite a media frenzy when they were discovered in Maryland in 2002 as the first known examples of a breeding population of wild snakeheads in the U.S. You can read more about it in our article “Environmental effects of Snakeheads”. You can see how widespread sakeheads have become in parts of the Potomac river in this video.

Since 2003, it is illegal to import snakeheads to the United States.