FWC busts alleged illegal hunting operation

Alligators, turtles and more -- the animals that make Florida famous are under attack. Now, wildlife officials are cracking down on illegal hunting. 

Officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on Friday announced they have taken down an entire network, in which suspects are accused of hunting deer out of season, trapping alligators without licenses and permits, and collecting protected gopher tortoises. They are also accused of illegally catching fish. 

"Organized criminal operations like this pose serious environmental and economic consequences," said Col. Curtis Brown, head of FWC's Division of Law Enforcement. "They damage our precious natural resources and create black markets that undermine the legal process. We do our best to put a stop to these crimes, supporting law-abiding business owners, landowners and those who enjoy recreating in Florida."

The FWC investigation led to the arrests of three suspects in Levy and Pinellas counties for violating state laws pertaining to illegally harvesting and selling various fish and wildlife. Fifteen additional suspects were served with notice to appear citations in Levy, Orange, Pinellas and Broward counties.

"Many Floridians make their living in and around Florida's waters, and when a group of individuals disregard the conservation efforts of so many, it's encouraging to see the FWC and agency partners work hard to bring those individuals to justice," said JD Dickenson, Coastal Conservation Association Florida chairman. "CCA Florida is proud of the hard work that FWC officers do in protecting the resources that we all enjoy."