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A Piranha Was Just Found in an Arkansas Lake

The sharp-toothed fish was likely a pet gone rogue

(2/Sylvain Cordier/Ocean/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

Arkansas isn't exactly known for its carnivorous, sharp-teethed tropical fish. But last week, KATV’s Alexis Rogers reports that a piranha was caught in Lake Bentonville, a lake usually reserved for fishing catfish and largemouth bass.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (ACFC), which owns the lake and maintains a nearby fish hatchery, confirmed the find. They say that the piranha likely came straight from someone’s aquarium.

“We get a few pacus and piranhas caught from time to time,” Keith Stephens, Assistant Chief of Communications at the AGFC, told Rogers. Stephens notes that when piranha outgrow people’s aquariums, they sometimes dump them in local lakes. However, the fish cannot survive Arkansas’ low winter water temperatures, so they usually die.

Does this mean that America’s lakes are on the verge of being taken over by terrifying piranha? Probably not. Although the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, have documented the tropical fish have been reported in several states and even eradicated from Florida bodies of water in 1962, 1977 and 2009, the habitat must be right (piranhas prefer murky water and warmer temperatures) to support piranha growth.

Though fish and wildlife officials nationwide are on the lookout for piranha, which could disrupt native species with their aggressive predation techniques, their efforts seem to have staved off a potential infestation for now. And don’t worry: despite a reputation to the contrary, piranhas aren’t quite as treacherous as they sound. Though dead bodies have been found with piranha bites in South America, where the species flourishes, it appears the person had already drowned before they were bitten. Plus, piranhas will only attack if provoked. So dipping your toes into the cool water of Lake Bentonville is safe for now. 

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