Story at a glance

  • A red-bellied piranha was found in a Louisiana State University lake.
  • Native to South America, the red-bellied piranha can grow to be a foot long and about 4 pounds.
  • The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries believe it may have been someone’s pet, though they are illegal in the state.

Wildlife officials are urging caution after someone released a red-bellied piranha in a Louisiana State University lake, leaving the officials unsure if more could be beneath the surface. 

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries said the piranha, captured last week in University Lakes, had most likely been someone’s pet.


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Native to South America, the red-bellied piranha can grow to be a foot long and about 4 pounds and are illegal in Louisiana.

Though often depicted as man-eaters in horror movies, the red piranha typically eat entire smaller fish, wounded prey and bites from larger fish.

“While their reputation in popular culture labels them as a vicious predator, piranhas are more likely to scavenge for dead or dying prey, including fish or crustaceans,” the department said.


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However, unsure of where the piranha came from and if there could be more, the department is urging caution. 

“If you have information, or if you think you caught a piranha,” it said, “please do not return it to the water.”


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Published on Jun 01, 2021