Piranha Reportedly Loose in Lake Near Louisiana State University

by Jon D. B.
(Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Don’t thank nature for this one, thank a random LSU student who may or may not have thought a piranha would make for a whimsical pet.

What’s red, snippy, full of razor-sharp teeth, and lives outside LSU frat row? Apparently, someone has let loose a red piranha into one of Louisiana State University’s lakes. Now, state wildlife officials are on the lookout for more of the South American fish – just in case.

The piranha-laden tale started last week, when one of the red-bellied species was caught in University Lakes. Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries expects a local, if not a student, was keeping the toothy predator as a pet.

Piranhas, of course, are illegal in Louisiana. Unfortunately, lending publicity to this may lead to many more piranhas in LSU waters.

“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 New York Post cites courtesy of an official press release.

The LDWF department does, however, advise caution if anyone “encounters a red piranha”. We’re not exactly sure how one “encounters” a piranha knowingly… But Outsider definitely recommends caution with piranhas, too.

Of the catch, LDWF does ask that if anyone has information, “or if you think you caught a piranha, please do not return it to the water.”

Piranha Loose in LSU Waters Can Surpass 1 Foot in Length

For LSU residents and locals, there will be no mistaking a red piranha if you catch one. The red-bellied piranha can grow to be over a foot long. The bigger individuals can weigh up to 4 pounds, too, states the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute.

The species gets its name from the red coloration on their undersides. The warm tones stretch from their jaw and cheeks back to the round of their belly before the tail.

This distinctive round shape serves a purpose, too. The piranha’s high forehead houses powerful muscles. Each attaches to a stout lower jaw full of jutting, razor-sharp teeth. These interlock with the upper teeth, giving the species a distinctive, churning blade-saw-like bite.

While horror films and pop culture have portrayed these fish as voracious killers for decades, the species actually prefers to eat leftovers made by larger species in the wild. Red-bellies will also go after small fish to eat whole and, believe it or not, will eat plants, too.

When they’re not being *ahem* illegally kept as pets at LSU, the species naturally inhabits South America’s infamous Amazon river and its freshwater tributaries.