DALLAS – No Sale! That was the message nearly two dozen willing online sellers of illegal wildlife resources received from Texas game wardens, along with citations, during a Wild Web crackdown conducted this week in the Metroplex.
Texas game wardens made multiple criminal cases against individuals attempting to make online sales of 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 taxidermied great blue heron, raptor talons, American alligator heads and live box turtles.
“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,” said Col. Grahame Jones, Law Enforcement Director with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “Wildlife trafficking online is a major problem and we want to send a message loud and clear that it will not be tolerated.”
During the operation, game wardens conducted 20 cases using online searches and mobile apps to uncover illegal items for sale. The investigations netted numerous seizures of wildlife resources, and resulted in issuance of 18 citations and 18 warnings. Citations included charges for sale and possession of threatened and or protected species, sale of migratory duck parts, sale of American alligator parts (no retail dealer permit), commercial exotic snake permit violations, Illegal sale of game fish, no fish dealer’s license, and failure to possess a 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 have been conducted elsewhere around the state, with the most recent crackdown in Houston last May. 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.