Snakeheads are native to Asia. Their names comes from the enlarged scales that cover their heads. Snakes are obligate air breathers. Unlike most fish, they must obtain oxygen directly from the air rather than water. They can live up to three days outside of water. They can move short distances on land through a wiggling motion. They are highly predatory, consuming mostly fish, but will also eat other small aquatic animals such as frogs and crawfish. Both male and female snakeheads are very protective of their eggs and fry. They can grow up to 3 feet in length. Four different species of snakehead currently found in the United States are: bullseye, blotched, giant and northern. Only Northern snakeheads are found near Louisiana and present a current threat. Northern snakeheads have been reported in the following states: Arkansas, California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, North Carolina, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia. They were released into the wild through fish markets and the aquarium trade. They have no known natural predators in the United States. Only the giant snakehead is known to attack humans. Currently, no known reproductive populations exist in the United States.
The Northern Snakehead is often confused with a bowfin, a native species. For details on how to tell the difference and information on reporting a possible snakehead contact, click here: