Georgette Curran lost her koi on Monday when a warden and biologists with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife seized them as well as a 6-year-old squirrel and a 14-year-old blue jay.
Curran, 66, of Harpswell, lost her bid to keep her koi — ornamental pond fish — when the Maine Supreme Judicial Court last month refused to overturn a lower court ruling that denied her a permit to keep the koi. She’d asked to be allowed to keep her fish permanently, and let them be in an outside pond in the summer. She’d been allowed to keep them indoors pending the appeal.
“It’s insane that 49 states — the rest of the world — allows koi â€˜cause they’re a tropical trade fish,” she said. “Maine has common carp laws and they’re lumping them in. They’re a subspecies. They wouldn’t take over our native waters â€˜cause they wouldn’t survive.”
For years Curran has bucked the system, trying to move koi to a list of allowed aquarium trade fish in the state, and she is collecting signatures to try to get state regulations changed.
In the court battle, she sought permission to keep the brightly colored fish permanently and to have them in an outdoor pond in the warmer weather.
Curran was distraught on Monday, her voice hoarse. “I’ve been crying so much,” she said.
She said she went to view her basement pond when they left. “I just cried,” she said. “There’s water everywhere, Everything is torn up. My beautiful Lemon (a koi) wasn’t there to greet me.”
She said she had applied for a permit to keep her blue jay, Jayne.
“She went through West Nile virus and lived through it with the help of my vet at the time,” Curran said. “And she had a crippled leg. She was spoiled rotten.”
“At least they let me say goodbye,” Curran said.
She was given a summons charging her with illegal possession of koi and has a hearing June 17 in West Bath District Court.
Mark Latti, a spokesman for the state fisheries and wildlife department, said Sgt. Jason Luce of the Maine Warden Service served the warrant to remove the fish and took the other two animals as well.
“It was illegal possession of captive wildlife,” Latti said. He said there were no charges at this point involving the bird and squirrel.
Latti said a total of 47 live koi and five dead ones were removed from Curran’s home. Curran said she had frozen the five fish after they died.
Curran’s permit to keep the fish while the court case was pending restricted her to 40 koi.
“Right now we’ll try to find a home for the koi,” Latti said on Monday afternoon. “Ideally we’d move the koi to a state that allows koi, but we have concerns about disease and parasites. Two potentially had some type of disease, and we will continue to monitor to see if others have that. If they’re disease-free then they’ll be moved out of state.”
He said the state will look for a suitable home for the other two animals as well, since they would not survive in the wild.
Latti said Curran “violated several provisions in the conditional permit, including putting these fish outside and having more than 40, which she wasn’t able to explain and possibly was breeding them.”
He said Curran’s permit to keep the koi had expired. Curran was first denied a permit to keep them in April 2012, but got the restricted permit in July 2012 while the court appeal was pending.
“The court affirmed that we weren’t being overly restrictive and that they did pose a threat to the state’s waters,” Latti said. “They’re a nonnative fish. They’re invasive just like milfoil, and once they’re in a waterway, you can’t get them out.”
Latti said the original tip about Curran keeping koi came in through the department’s Operation Game Thief tipline.
Curran still has 24 Chihuahuas and three Doberman pinschers. She said the officers seized some of the dogs’ medication.