Lake Wind Advisory issued November 23 at 2:25PM EST expiring November 23 at 7:00PM EST in effect for: Pinellas
Quick action has saved 11 threatened gopher tortoises.
"I don't think anybody would hide tortoises out in the woods if they thought they were not doing anything wrong," said Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission officer Tommy Reid.
Working off a tip, Reid found a pile of dead gopher tortoise shells in the Citrus County woods.
When Reid went back the next day he found live, captured gopher tortoises.
Soon after that he heard a truck headed his way.
"I saw him go right to the tortoises, start taking them out of the box, put them in the back of his truck," Reid explained to ABC Action News. "He had four or five that he'd already placed on his truck belly up so they couldn't move around stuff like that."
Reid was watching the whole thing, then came out of hiding and introduced himself, explaining that what the man was doing was illegal.
Reid was also surprised to learn what this man was doing with the tortoises: Eating them.
It's illegal under state law to even possess a gopher tortoise, which is a designated by the state as a "threatened" reptile. In 2006, the state estimated the gopher population in Florida at 785,000, threatened by habitat destruction.
FWC officers say this suspect admitted to capturing and eating 15 gopher tortoises.
And Reid's actions saved 11 captured tortoises from being eaten.
The Citrus County man was cited and could face felony charges for hunting a threatened species.
FWC officials always welcome tips to possible crimes.
You can call the Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or text email@example.com.