BOLIVIA, N.C. - A North Carolina man who was caught with more than 200 Venus flytraps now faces more than 70 felony poaching charges.
Archie Lee Williams Jr., 41, was arrested Saturday and charged with 73 felony counts of taking a Venus flytrap, local media outlets reported. His bond was set at $750,000.
Williams had about 216 Venus flytraps and was planning to sell them, WECT-TV reported.
“They were all fresh,” said John White, master officer with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, the News & Observer of Raleigh reported. “They still had moist dirt around the roots. They had not wilted yet.”
White told local media that Williams’ arrest came after a monthslong investigation into who was poaching the Venus flytraps from game lands in Brunswick County. He set up a motion-activated camera to try to catch the thief in action, White told WECT-TV.
On Saturday, White said he received an image of someone crossing the game land. He and another officer went to the land to intercept the possible thief, and that’s when White said he found Williams.
In addition to the Venus flytraps, which were in a bag, Williams had digging tools, White said.
Williams’ arrest is the first large-scale case of Venus flytrap stealing in years, the Port City Daily News reported.
The carnivorous plants only grow within a 65- to 70-mile radius of Wilmington, according to the Port City Daily News. In 2014, poaching the plants was upgraded from a misdemeanor to a felony.
Poaching a Venus flytrap is punishable by up to 25 months in prison. There’s no limit to how much offenders can be fined, the Star-News of Wilmington reported.
The poaching is an ongoing problem, White said.
“This is an ongoing thing,” he said. “It’s almost impossible to catch them without the help of the public … and just dumb luck.”
White told the News & Observer that the Venus flytraps seized from Williams will be replanted.
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