Texas game wardens seized several alligators and other protected animals this week as part of an ongoing investigation into illegal wildlife trading over the internet in the Houston area, officials said Friday.
The game wardens, who work for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, said they made “multiple” criminal cases this week against people who were trying to sell threatened animal species.
Navigating through internet forums and online marketplaces, the game wardens made several undercover transactions will sellers. Among the items they offered were 100-pound alligator snapping turtle and a timber rattlesnake – both protected species in Texas – along with live alligators and illegal Gulf shrimp, officials said.
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“The illegal sale and exploitation of wildlife resources is a global problem that has a direct negative effect on the state of Texas,” Maj. Chris Davis with Texas Parks and Wildlife said in a statement. His investigators coordinated the covert operation with game wardens in the Houston area.
If left unchecked, the practice could lead to the loss of wildlife species native to Texas, Davis said.
Game wardens issued several citations for offenses including sale of live American alligators, sale of migratory duck parts and the illegal sale of Gulf shrimp among others. Fines range from between $25-$500. Any live animals native to Texas were released back into their natural habitat, officials said.
Texas Parks and Wildlife officials are considering mounting similar undercover operations in other parts of the state.
Anyone who witnesses illegal online wildlife trade is asked to contact game wardens at Operation Game Thief – 800-792-GAME.