Trading on the internet can be a wild experience with deals on practically anything and everything one can imagine just a click away. Some online sellers in the Houston area learned this week that illegal sales of wildlife products can become high ticket items.
Texas game wardens made multiple criminal cases this week against individuals attempting to sell online various threatened and protected wildlife species, as well as state and federally regulated natural resources. Navigating through internet forums and online marketplaces where trade in both live wildlife and wildlife parts are known to occur, wardens were able to negotiate undercover transactions with willing sellers to purchase things like a 100-pound alligator snapping turtle and a timber rattlesnake, both threatened species in Texas, as well as live alligators, illegal Gulf shrimp and raptor parts.
“Our focus was on identifying subjects attempting to sell or trade protected, prohibited, invasive, threatened or endangered species and setting up undercover buys as the enforcement strategy,” said Game Warden Maj. Chris Davis, whose Criminal Investigation Division coordinated the covert operation with Houston area wardens. “The illegal sale and exploitation of wildlife resources is a global problem that has a direct negative effect on the State of Texas and could lead to the loss of Texas native species, either through the harvest of native species or introduction of non-indigenous invasive species.”
During the four day operation, game wardens made multiple cases, including seizures of illegally obtained and possessed wildlife. Appropriate citations were issued and live native species were released back into their natural habitat. Citations included charges for sale and possession of threatened species, sale of migratory duck parts, sale of live American alligators, Illegal sale of aquatic product (Gulf shrimp), no retail / truck dealer’s license, and failure to possess non-game dealer permit. All citations issued were class C misdemeanor violations punishable by fine from $25 – $500.
Federal laws regulating the sale of wildlife include the Migratory Bird Treaty Act; the Endangered Species Act (which bans the interstate or international sell of listed species and most products made from them); and the Marine Mammal Protection Act (which limits the sale of most marine mammal parts and products, other than those crafted by Native Alaskans).
Additional covert wild web operations are being considered elsewhere around the state, however, the public is urged to help augment game warden efforts by notifying Operation Game Thief at 800-792-GAME about possible illegal online wildlife trade activity or contact your local game warden office. A list of game warden offices can be found on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department web site.