DEC Stings Poachers, Smugglers of Turtles, Snakes, and Salamanders
Today the state department of environmental conservation got to play Elliot Ness, announcing charges against 18 people nabbed in "Operation Shellshock," a sting on illegal poaching, transportation and sales of protected reptiles, specifically turtles, rattlesnakes and salamanders.
The Times reports one malefactor, an Ontario prison guard, smuggled rattlesnakes into New York by hiding them "throughout his van in door compartments"; the Albany Times-Union says at the DEC's press conference "the sound of the agitated snakers' rattles could be heard." Also caught in the DEC's net was a Louisiana turtle farmer who hid "illegally harvested" snapping turtles among his home-grown testudines and later sold them to the Chinese, who consider them good eating.
Some of the apprehended wildlife criminals are up on felony charges; those involved in the Louisiana snapping-turtle racket are suspected of breaking federal wildlife protection laws and will be prosecuted by the Feds. "Illegal trafficking of turtles, snakes and other animals is a serious matter," said Acting U.S. Attorney Kathleen M. Mehltretter to a no doubt delighted press corps, "precisely because such activities can produce long-term, detrimental effects to the eco-system." Altogether over 2,400 reptiles were involved; Of these 400 have been rescued by the DEC, which is holding them as evidence or as protected witnesses, depending on how you look at it. Photo (cc) wsweet321.
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