Law enforcement issuing felony charges in protected plant cases
Law enforcement agencies wasted little time in making use of a new law that makes poaching Venus flytraps from public or private lands a felony. In early January, the Wilmington Star-News reported that four men were charged with felony poaching after they were found by a N.C. Wildlife Resources officer with 900 plants in their possession at the Holly Shelter Game Land in Pender County.
A new law went into effect Dec. 1, making it a felony to take Venus flytraps or flytrap seeds from public or private lands. The men were the first in the state charged under the new law.
“We hope the threat of stiffer penalties will reduce the theft of the Venus flytraps as well as other protected plants or plants of special concern,” said Vernon Cox, director of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Plant Industry Division. “When people steal these plants, they are stealing the opportunity for future generations to enjoy these unique plants.”
The insect-eating flytraps grow in the wild only in North Carolina and a small area of South Carolina, essentially within about a 90-mile radius of Wilmington. Many plant sites are on public lands or lands under conservation management.
The charges in Pender County were not the only felony charges involving plants in the New Year. In the western part of the state, a man pled guilty to felony larceny of ginseng from private property. The root was stolen from a ginseng farm.
Plant conservationists with NCDA&CS face similar poaching issues involving public lands with ginseng. While it is not illegal to harvest wild ginseng on private property with permission, Cox said, it is unlawful to take the roots from public property or private lands without permission.
“Because the wild root commands a much higher price than cultivated ginseng, wild populations on public lands are a frequent target of poachers,” Cox said. “Jim Corbin, one of our plant protection specialists, has developed a marking program to help identify roots taken from public lands when they are sold. This marking program has been successful in bringing poaching charges against a number of people.
“Hopefully, as word of these arrests and charges spread, it will deter others from stealing these plants,” Cox added.
To learn more about plant conservation efforts in the state, go to www.ncagr.gov/plantindustry/plant/plantconserve/index.htm.
You can also find a YouTube video on departmental efforts to harvest Venus flytrap seeds and reseed farther away from roadways below or at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UNUKKQ7Ar0I.