CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The Texas Game Wardens protect the state's wildlife from illegal trade.
Lerrin Johnson, the Game Warden for Texas Parks & Wildlife said this is a large problem here in Texas. She told us she's even written citations for people illegally buying the American alligator or a non-native species like the Caiman here in Corpus Christi.
“We also commonly used to go through the flea market or the Trade Center there in Corpus, and sometimes you’ll see exotic species or even things such as Red-eared sliders for sale," said Johnson.
Johnson said some Red-eared sliders can be sold if you have a nongame dealer permit. She told us sea turtles are harvested for their shells, their eggs or are shipped off to other countries to make sea turtle boots.
People will often sell talons off of hawks and eagles to make jewelry out of them. Thus increasing the pressure on these protected and endangered species, making them illegal to possess or sell them.
“Because we are trying to decrease any pressure on these threatened, protected, and endangered species," said Johnson.
Aaron Castillo just moved to the Coastal Bend from Amarillo and said people should leave the animals alone and respect the wildlife.
“I feel like it’s very, very wrong and that they should find interest in something else besides taking life from the ocean," said Castillo.
Depending on the species you are trying to buy, sell or posses, “Some of these animals such as sea turtles, whooping cranes, they are on the endangered species list; they are federally protected as well as state protected," said Johnson.
Johnson said it can be a class D misdemeanor to a felony, federal charges, along with major charges costing tens of thousands of dollars if caught.
“Be mindful that it is probably or possibly illegal how you are buying or selling these animals, and you can face criminal charges," said Johnson.
Johnson said if you come across someone illegally trying to sell you a species to call their 24/7 Operation Game Thief hotline, which is 1-800-792- (GAME).