Gateway Gazette

Town of Okotoks: Don’t Let It Loose

Don’t Dump Your Goldfish or Any Other Pets into Nearby Water

dont let it loose 2Goldfish are now present in at least two ponds in Okotoks. The fish were likely deposited by residents no longer wanting aquarium fish or not wanting to overwinter fish in their backyard pond. This is becoming a common occurrence throughout the province and the fish are managing to overwinter and reproduce. Non-native fish and associated pathogens may pose a threat to native ecosystems and aquatic species.

When other pets get too difficult to manage, some people feel the “humane” thing to do is to release them into the wild.  Releasing pets like frogs, turtles, rabbits or aquarium fish into nearby land or water leads to several problems. Most released pets will die, some quickly, possibly after getting hit by a car or being killed by predators, and some slowly die of starvation.  Abandoned pets often seek shelter and food among humans, which can lead to nuisance problems.  Some released pets are successful in the wild and this can lead to ecological or agricultural disasters.  Once established, they can take over their new habitat, reducing native populations and changing the structure of the ecosystem.

What is an Aquatic Nuisance Species?

Aquatic nuisance species are species that have been introduced or spread by people dumping personal aquariums or releasing pets into natural areas or local bodies of water or dumping down storm drains.  It may seem like the most humane thing to do, but releasing your pet in the wild can have many unforeseen consequences..

There are a number of invasive critters that have been introduced through aquarium dumping or intentional release.  If you ever find yourself in a dilemma wondering what to do with your non-native animals or plants, play it safe and just remember – “Don’t Let It Loose”!  It’s not worth the environmental harm and economic cost associated with the introduction and spread of aquatic nuisance species.

What can I do if I can no longer care for my pet?

Where can I take my unwanted critter?

EXAMPLE DILEMMA:  Five years ago you bought a Red-eared Slider from your local pet store. Now your turtle is getting too big for his tank and you are tired of taking care of him anyway. What should you do?

It’s simple. If you have a pet you find you can no longer care for, you need to find it a new home – and never, ever, release your pet to the wild. If you are not able to place your pet with another caring owner, your best course is to contact an animal shelter, agency or even a pet store near you. The knowledgeable personnel in these places can help you find the right place for your pet. Use the resources on this website to locate the help you need!

Never release invasive critters and aquarium plants or animals into natural areas or bodies of water, whether it is a small local pond or nearby river.

Examples of Invasive Species

  • Fish from aquaria or non-local water bodies
  • Rabbits
  • Rodents
  • Amphibians such as frogs, toads, and salamanders
  • Reptiles such as turtles and snakes
  • Worms & Insects
  • Snails, crabs, crayfish, mussels & other crustaceans
  • Aquatic plants
  • Terrestrial plants (weeds)
  • Etc.!

Why releasing a pet into the wild is never the right thing!

Most pets released to the wild do not survive, and many suffer before they die. Pets are usually unable to find food or shelter in the wild and they are often an easy meal for another creature. If it does manage to survive, your pet becomes an invasive species that native wildlife may not have the defenses to compete against. Invasive species cause harm to the environment and the economy. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency estimates the cost of invasive species in Canada annually is $30 billion and growing!

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