DNR chief OKs using poison to kill snakeheads in pond in Crofton

August 07, 2002|By Rona Kobell | Rona Kobell,SUN STAFF

State Natural Resources Secretary J. Charles Fox sealed the fate yesterday of the reportedly hundreds of snakeheads lurking in Crofton, agreeing to poison their pond with a plant-based fish-killer.

Fox's announcement follows the recommendations of a scientific panel that met two weeks ago and advocated using rotenone, a root-based substance that disrupts the flow of oxygen to the gills and kills fish in hours.

In a recent lab test, juvenile snakeheads from the Crofton pond that ingested the poison died within a day. The panel also recommended killing the pond's vegetation with herbicides before applying the rotenone.

Department of Natural Resources officials and panelists said they expected Fox to follow the panel's recommendation and act quickly to rid the pond of the northern snakeheads, voracious predators from China's Yangtze River that can slither on their fins, breathe air and survive on land for three days.

Fox declined to say exactly when the pond would be poisoned, but expected the process to begin within a few days, depending on when the area next gets a stretch of clear days. Herbicides work best in dry weather.

The sharp-toothed, torpedo-shaped predator surfaced in June in a pond behind Dunkin' Donuts on Route 3, after a local man dumped two snakeheads, one male and one female, in the pond when they outgrew their aquarium. Now, the pond is loaded with juvenile fish, and scientists worry they could wriggle into the Little Patuxent River 75 yards away.

While mindful of the problem's urgency, Fox said he wanted to weigh all the factors before making a decision.

"I wanted to be very confident that we understood the ramifications of adding these chemicals to the pond," he said. "I'm very confident now that the chemicals we are using are going to be safe."

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