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Texas game wardens arrest illegal wildlife traf­fickers

Pelts, turtles, snakes among items seized

SAN ANTONIO - About 150 people were arrested for the illegal trafficking of protected species, after an intense investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas game wardens, and other federal agencies.

The two-week investigation, called “Operation Wild Web,” involved cases of traffickers who were selling protected species online. Of those arrested, 61 of the cases were in Texas.

“Everything from traditional things you see as a Texas game warden, like deer meat, which is illegal to sell in Texas, all the way to live pythons,” said Greg Williford, Captain of the Criminal Investigation Division with Texas Parks and Wildlife.

In Texas, turtles and snakes were among the most common animals that were confiscated, but other species, both dead and alive, were also being sold.

“The illegal wildlife trade is a $19 billion industry,” Williford said. “And so, that puts it right up there close to narcotics and human smuggling.”

A total of 30 game wardens contributed to Operation Wild Web, which took place last summer, but Williford said the public can also do their part to prevent this type of illegal activity.

“Before you buy some sort of exotic animal or pet, call your U.S. Fish and Wildlife office, or call the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department,” Williford said. “ See what the rules and regulations are, before you make that purchase.”

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