GILLETTE, Wyo.— The Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) is urging residents to properly rehome their unwanted pets and not release them into the wild.
Releasing pets into the wild, while perceived by some as a permissible kindness, is illegal, WGFD says, and cruel to the animals that will likely starve or freeze to death, and those that don’t will likely pose a dangerous threat to the Wyoming ecosystem.
“Pets can become an invasive species problem when owners let them loose,” Josh Leonard, WGFD aquatic invasive species coordinator, said in a statement. “From tropical fish to snakes to turtles, do not release your pets.”
Pets as small as a goldfish can have devastating effects on native wildlife, Leonard continued, adding that they can reproduce quickly and compete with native fish for habitat as well as spread diseases.
If a pet grows too large or difficult to keep, WGFD asks residents to act responsibly by not letting animals or plants loose into the wild.
Instead, per WFGD, consider contacting the place of purchase to see if they can take the animal back or research other options to provide a new home for the pet.
If all else fails, euthanasia is a humane option, WGFD says, and a kinder option than letting the animal starve or freeze to death or destroy the homes of native animals.
Unwanted plants should always be frozen and thrown out in the trash, per WGFD.
For more information, check out the WGFD’s “Don’t Let it Loose” program that exists to protect native species in Wyoming.