The illegal taking of alligator, and of harvesting oysters, highlighted actions in the county by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Division of Law Enforcement during the last week of last month.
Officers Gore, Allen and Martin were working a complaint in Tate's Hell Wildlife Management Area regarding three subjects illegally killing deer and alligators at night. Surveillance was conducted and information obtained that one of the subjects had an alligator in the back of his truck.
Shortly after the information was obtained, Gore spotted the truck. He and Martin, along with deputies from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office conducted a traffic stop, during which the officers noticed blood on the tailgate and bumper along with blood on the suspect’s shirt. A subsequent search of the truck bed revealed alligator meat, alligator head, and other parts of the alligator. A rifle used to shoot and kill the gator was found in the front seat.
The suspect is a convicted felon and cannot possess firearms. After the evidence was secured, another individual involved in the crime was taken into custody. During interviews, information was obtained there was more evidence at the residences of the three individuals. A search was conducted at two of the residences. Additional alligator parts were located along with an illegal controlled substance.
The subjects were arrested and booked into the Franklin County Jail for illegal taking of an alligator, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, felony possession of a controlled substance and violation of probation.
Officers Gore and Cook received information regarding three individuals harvesting oysters in a prohibited area. Following up on the information, Gore located the oysters that were harvested, stockpiled under an abandoned oyster house. He set up surveillance and, three hours later, three individuals showed up at the location and went under the house.
Officer Gore was able to get closer and observe one of the individuals culling the oysters from the pile. A short time later, the officers stopped the individuals. The suspects admitted to harvesting the oysters the night before in a prohibited area of Apalachicola Bay. They returned 12 hours later to cull the oysters and take them to a dealer to sell.
The officers obtained evidence to charge them with harvesting oysters from a prohibited area, harvesting between sunset and sunrise, possession of unculled and untagged oysters, and failure to deliver to the shellfish dealer same day of harvest. One of the subjects was arrested just weeks prior to this arrest for harvesting shellfish in prohibited waters. This individual was booked into the Franklin County Jail.
A total of 25 bags of oysters were seized and returned to the bay. The Department Of Agriculture and Consumer Services was notified and is pursuing further penalties.