You would not expect to find a piranha in Aberdeen Lake, or any place in North America for that matter. Piranhas are freshwater fish native to South America, living predominantly in the Orinoco River basin in Brazil.
Piranha translates to toothy fish in Portuguese. According to Smithsonian Magazine, piranhas swim in packs because “piranhas aren’t apex predators—they’re prey to caimans, birds, river dolphins, and other large pescatarian fish. So, traveling in shoals has the effect of protecting the inner fish from attack.”
Imagine Aberdeen resident Chad Ray’s surprise when a couple of men showed him a fish that appeared to be a red-bellied piranha to him Saturday at Aberdeen Lake.
Ray was at the lake with his family celebrating his son’s 8th birthday. The men were fishing and had caught the fish earlier and set it aside.
Ray took some pictures and posted them on Facebook. As of Monday, that post has over 20,000 shares and has been seen as far away as Canada.
The dead piranha is now in Ray’s freezer. Courtesy photos from Facebook.
On the surface, it seems highly improbable that a freshwater fish from South America would make it to Aberdeen, but things are not always as they seem.
According to Troy Thompson, a fisheries biologist with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, it is most likely someone’s pet that outgrew its tank, and they disposed of it by throwing it in the lake.
Piranhas are on the restricted list in North Carolina, meaning it is unlawful to transport, purchase, possess, sell, or stock in the public or private waters of North Carolina.
According to Thompson, the owner probably figured throwing it in the lake was better than killing it. However, “piranha’s are warm water fish. Once the water temperature gets below 50 degrees, they would struggle and die soon afterward.”
Adam Crocker, Aberdeen Parks and Recreation Director, added, “There has never been an instance of those fish appearing in North American waters other than being disposed of by their owners. There are no concerns about the safety of those using the park.”
Thompson agreed and said, “There is no concern of them establishing themselves or taking over the pond.”
However, suppose you want to see a piranha at Aberdeen Lake on October 14. In that case, the parks and recreation department is showing the movie “The Bad Guys,” an animated movie that stars, among other things, a piranha trying to turn from a criminal to a model citizen.
The movie starts at 6:45 p.m. You can find more information about the movie on the Aberdeen Parks and Recreation Facebook page.
~Written by Sandhills Sentinel Reporter Chris Prentice. Contact him at [email protected].