US goes nuts over flying squirrel thieves

James Marshall
October 22, 2020

Poachers set as many as 10,000 squirrel traps in central Florida and captured as many as 3,600 flying squirrels over a three-year period.

Buyers from South Korea would travel to Florida and purchase the squirrels, which are native to the state, from the dealer in Bushnell.

The flying furry creatures, which are protected in Florida, were being sold to a wildlife dealer who then re-sold them as pets. The seventh was a fugitive. The squirrels were taken to an unwitting animal exporter in Chicago where they were prepared for transport.

'Over the next 19 months, FWC Investigators pieced together an elaborate scheme in which flying squirrels were illegally captured by poachers in multiple counties throughout central Florida, ' the agency added.

The FWC estimates the value of the poached wildlife is more than $1 million. Wow! The investigation regarding this case started when the FWC got a tip in 2019 regarding the illegal squirrel trapping in Marion County. The authorities said that he Florida wildlife dealer illegally netted over $213,000.

It is likely that buyers in Asia were purchasing the squirrels as pets, according to the an official with the Humane Society of the United States.

Four of the accused are from Florida and two are from Georgia. From there, another courier would drive them to Chicago.

"Wildlife conservation laws protect Florida's precious natural resources from abuse".

Those participants would not disclose the identity of any other suspects.

Knox was charged with money laundering, grand theft, racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering, scheme to defraud, and dealing in stolen property, according to the agency.

4 of the suspects are from Florida including Rodney Knox, 66, Donald Harrod Jr., 49, of Bushnell Kenneth Roebuck, 59, of Lake Panasoffkee, and Vester Taylor Jr.

The commission learned that the operation also involved other species of animals including protected freshwater turtles and alligators.

FWC investigators discovered the major smuggling operation where poachers captured almost 4,000 flying squirrels and made around $213,800. "These poachers could have severely damaged Florida's wildlife populations", said FWC Investigation section leader Maj. They face a combined 25 felony charges in connection with the incident, with more arrests pending. Grant Burton, who leads investigations at the state's wildlife commission.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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