First felony charges for theft of Venus Flytraps from wild

Submitted photo

Submitted photo

RALEIGH — A wildlife officer with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission has made the first arrests as a felony offense for removal of Venus flytraps from the wild. Prior to Dec. 1, 2014, Venus flytrap poaching had been a misdemeanor offense.

Wildlife Officer Fred Gorchess had been investigating reports of suspicious activity at Holly Shelter Game Land in Pender County for several weeks. On Jan. 3, with assistance from Pender County Sheriff’s deputies, he apprehended four men with 970 Venus flytraps in their possession.

Venus flytraps are rare, carnivorous plants that feed on insects and grow in swamps and bogs that can be found on Wildlife Commission game lands in Pender, Brunswick, Onslow and New Hanover counties. The North Carolina Chapter of the Nature Conservancy estimates only 35,000 plants remain in the wild, citing poaching as a major threat.

State law N.C.G.S. §14-129.3 elevated Venus flytrap poaching from a misdemeanor to felony status and went into effect Dec. 1, 2014. If convicted, the men face up to 29 months in prison and fines. Each plant taken is considered an individual offense. Previously, as a misdemeanor, the maximum fine was $50.

“Venus flytraps are an important part of the ecological integrity of these conserved lands,” said Mallory Martin, chief deputy director of the Wildlife Commission. “Removal is not only a theft of a protected resource, but intentional damage to the natural landscape.”

Efforts are being made to save the plants and replant them in the area from which they were taken at an appropriate time.

“Venus flytraps are a unique and important part of southeastern North Carolina’s ecosystem,” said District Attorney Ben David. “I am proud that the Fifth District will be the first to prosecute the new felony charge and commend the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission for their enforcement of the law.”

The district attorney’s office listed those arrested as Jimmy Wortham, 23; Paul Simmons, 49; Paul Simmons, Jr., 22, all of Holden Beach; and Malcolm Douglas Massey, 30, of Supply.

The public can assist wildlife officers in preventing conservation crimes by reporting suspicious activities and violations anytime to the Wildlife Commission at 1-800-662-7137.

Filed in: Latest Headlines, Outdoors

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