Save Chris's Pet Snakehead Fish

  • By: Mary Lou
  • Target:

A pet owner in Clay hopes his guilty plea in town court this week doesn't equate to a death sentence for his 10-year-old, 28-inch long Snakehead fish.

Chris Deverso pleaded guilty Tuesday night and was fined $25 for possessing the illegal fish. He's now is scrambling to find "Rocky" a legal home. He's contacted zoos and aquariums, including the Rosamond Gifford Zoo at Burnett Park.

So far, he's had no luck. Rosamond Gifford Zoo officials told Deverso they can't take the fish because they don't have funding to build a large aquarium to house a single fish. A Snakehead would attack any other fish in the tank.

"This fish doesn't deserve to die," said Deverso, 37, who purchased the fish 10 years ago for $30 from a local pet store. "There has to be another solution."

What's your take on the fish story?Oh, please. Let the guy keep the fish!
Wake me when there's real news. This is silly.
Rocky's gotta go. He and his species are illegal here for a reason.
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Possessing a Snakehead didn't become illegal until 2004, about two years after somebody released a pair of Northern Snakehead into a Crofton, Md., where they bred and wiped out the entire fish population. Snakehead have infiltrated New York waters, as well. Last August, the state's Department of Environmental Conservation was forced to treat Ridgebury Lake and Catlin Creek in Orange County with an aquatic pesticide designed to kill Northern Snakehead. Snakehead are described as having voracious appetite, often consuming all other fish in a lake or pond, and even eating its young. The fish can slither across land, staying out of water for up to three days, to find new sources of food, including small animals. "Those fish released into the pond were cold-climate temperature fish that can survive winter months," Deverso said. "My fish is a Giant Snakehead species. It's not a cold-climate temperature fish and could not survive if it was released into a pond." Federal regulations do not distinguish between different species of Snakehead; they're all illegal. Deverso said some animal organizations from outside the state have extended offers to take in Rocky. One issue is federal transportation laws across state lines. "Another issue is the fish is 10 years old," he said. "There's a fear the stress of taking him out of the environment he's been in for 10 years and doing a transport would kill him." Deverso has the fish in a 200-gallon tank at his home at 7424 Muench Road in Clay. State Department of Conservation officials said they would wait until Deverso's criminal court proceedings were complete before, possibly, seizing the fish. "We realize this fish is this guy's pet and we're sensitive to the situation, trying to work with him," said Region 7 Capt. Woody Erickson of the DEC, "as long as he's trying to find a legal home for this thing. If not, he'll have to surrender it to us or euthanize it himself." There's no set timetable to seize the fish, Erickson said. "On the other hand if there is no home for this thing, we can't continue this on forever," he said. "We'd like to work this out within the next two weeks." Tom Leo can be reached at or 470-6013.
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