FWC investigators go undercover to combat illegal online sales of wildlife

Investigators issued more than a dozen citations

Florida Fish Wildlife Conservation Commission investigators recently went undercover to combat illegal internet sales of wildlife in central Florida. 

Investigators issued more than a dozen citations and warnings to individuals from multiple counties including Marion, Lake, Sumter and Orange counties.

From a spider ball python, a gargoyle gecko, hedgehogs, parrolettes, spider snakes, and even a prairie dog you can find just about anything online.

FWC uncovered dark world of exotic animal sales in an undercover sting dubbed "Operation Ibis" to catch individuals selling wildlife without a permit.

Posing as buyers on Craigslist officers answered ads and busted a 57-year-old woman who attempted to illegally sell two hedgehogs to an undercover officer in a Walmart parking lot in Ocala for $160 without a license.

The required ESC license must be issued by FWC but that didn't stop a 47-year-old man from offering an undercover officer illegal birds in the same parking lot a day later for $200.

When the man realized a sale wouldn't be made, a report obtained by NEWS 6 reveals, he said, "You set me up, this is one of those buy bust deals."

This wide-ranging multi-county crime sent covert investigators to an Arby's parking lot in Ocoee where a woman was caught unknowingly trying to sell multiple snakes.

In Wildwood a 20-year-old man was also cited with a second degree misdemeanor for trying to sell a gargoyle gecko at this Zaxby's parking lot.

In an unmarked patrol car FWC investigators used binoculars and waited for a signal from officers before a 64-year-old woman was cited for trying to sell a spider snake to an undercover officer.

Most of the people were cited with second degree misdemeanors. Exotic animals must have oversight and inspections to ensure they aren't carrying disease and come from a safe environment.


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