Houston Wardens Bust Illegal Internet Wildlife Traders

Houston Wardens Bust Illegal Internet Wildlife Traders

Today’s internet serves many uses, mostly legal, but occasionally illegal when it comes to the sale of wildlife.

In May 2017, Texas Parks and Wildlife game wardens, during a four-day operation in the Houston area, filed numerous cases against individuals who were attempting to sell threatened and protected wildlife species and federally-regulated natural resources.

Knowing the sales of live wildlife and animal parts, some of which are state and/or federally protected, can occur on the internet through such sites as Craigslist, eBay and others, Texas game wardens negotiated undercover transactions with willing sellers to purchase various wildlife parts and species. These, among others, included a 100-pound alligator snapping turtle and a timber rattlesnake, both threatened species in Texas. They also were able to purchase raptor parts (hawk and eagle), illegal shrimp and live alligators. The sale of these is illegal!

Regarding the recent illegal wildlife trade cases in Houston, Texas game warden Maj. Chris Davis, who heads up the state’s Criminal Investigation Division, coordinated the covert operation with Houston area game wardens. “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,” Davis explained. “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.” (Note: Other key game wardens involved cannot be reached for comment following Hurricane Harvey as they assist in rescuing people in Houston and the surrounding areas.)

During the operation, Texas game wardens made multiple criminal cases and conducted several seizures of illegally-obtained, illegally-possessed wildlife. Issued citations include charges for the sale and possession of threatened species, sale of migratory duck parts, sale of live American alligators, illegal sale of aquatic products (Gulf shrimp), no retail/truck dealer’s license, and failure to possess non-game dealer permit. All charges were deemed Class C misdemeanor violations punishable by fines from $25 to $500.

How Common Are the Illegal Sales of Wildlife and Parts thereof?
In Texas, some game wardens suggest the illegal sale of wildlife could well be a multi-million-dollar industry. On an international scale, according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare, illegal wildlife trade generates an estimated 19 billion dollars.

Federal laws regulating sale of wildlife include: the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Endangered Species Act (bans interstate and international sales of listed species and things made from them) and the Marine Mammal Protection Act (limits sales of most marine mammal parts and products other than those crafted by Native Alaskans).

What Can You Do to Help Curtail Illegal Wildlife Sales?
Lewis Rather, the executive director of International Wildlife Crimestoppers, suggests, “If you are offered to purchase what could be illegal wildlife or parts from them, or you see them being sold, contact your local game warden. You also can visit and click on “Report a Poacher,” which will take you to a map of the United States. Then click on your appropriate state and you will be connected with your state’s appropriate wildlife crimestopper unit.”

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About the Author
Legendary “Mr. Whitetail,” Larry Weishuhn, host and owner of DSC's "Trailing the Hunter's Moon," is one of the most popular and widely-recognized wildlife biologists and outdoor media personalities nationwide. Over the past five decades, he has authored multiple books and numerous articles on hunting and wildlife conservation. In his 2004 book, Trailing the Hunter's Moon, was named Foreword Magazine's Gold Book of the Year in the Adventure and Recreation category. 

A lifelong hunter, Weishuhn has long served as a featured speaker for the NRA and other organizations including Dallas Safari Club (DSC) and the Texas Wildlife Association (TWA), where he was one of three co-founders promoting science-based wildlife management, firearms and hunting. For more information, click here.