Attack Of The Swamp Eels!

It slithers. It swims. And it can produce 200 eggs at a time. Scientists call the Asian swamp eel an ecological nightmare, first discovered in south Florida and now making its way north, reports CBS News Correspondent Byron Pitts.

The swamp eel grows to about three feet and six pounds, and it first turned up in the Florida ecosystem about a year ago.

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The eels breed along canals, ditches, and swamps. They live off crawfish, blue gill, bass, and any other tiny creature in its path. The problem is that they are almost indestructible.

"It's essentially a runaway situation," says ecologist Bill Loftus. "There's nothing you can do about it."

Scientists say the swamp eel was most likely dumped in the Florida Everglades by someone unloading their home aquarium. Now, like monsters in a sci-fi movie, they pose a real problem.

Dr. Jim Williams says the eel may not be a perfect organism, but it's close. It's a species capable of surviving on land as well as in the water.

"Ordinarily, you put a fish on the ground, and it just thrashes around," he says. "It doesn't behave like [a fish], but it is."

With no known predators, scientists have tried to poison it, starve it, even freeze it to death. But the only surefire way to kill the eel is to club it, Williams says.

In parts of Asia, the swamp eel is considered a delicacy, but here in the states, it's already threatening the ecosystem in Florida and Georgia. Scientists fear it may make its way as far north as Washington, D.C., or across the southern half of the country.

It's a threat that scientists say could have been avoided if someone had disposed of this exotic pet properly.

Reported by Byron Pitts
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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