Spend the weekend cuddling your pet tiger? Or selling a tank for your alligator? If you did it online, or posted pictures to somewhere like Facebook, California’s Fish and Game Department wants to remind you: They’re watching.
If you upload a photo of your epic hunting trip where you nabbed a mountain lion, bald eagle or other endangered animal, or try to sell illegal animals like ferrets or, yes, even a tiger, you could get in big trouble.
Just ask Jared Heald of Livermore. He’s due in Superior Court in Pleasanton today to enter a plea on three misdemeanor charges of illegal possession of a species.
According to court records, Heald was arrested last year after California’s Fish and Game Department responded to a Craigslist ad he posted advertising a fish tank for sale.
After inquiring about the exotic fish pictured in the tank and several text messages including one Heald allegedly sent saying:
“I don’t want you to show up and be Department of Fish and Game. I usually try to get proof that the people I deal with also keep these types of fish.”
The warden and a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent unsurprisingly showed up at Heald’s home quickly thereafter to make the fishy deal.
Instead of a pay day, Heald was slapped with three misdemeanors charges on suspicion of illegal possession of an alligator gar, a spotted gar and two bowfin fish. If found guilty, he could face a hefty $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail for each count, according to Fish and Game warden Patrick Foy.
The Fish and Game department has been trolling the online community in an effort to protect the state’s ecosystems. Foy told Contra Costa Times:
“People call our headquarters and say, ‘I spotted this on Craigslist’ and say, ‘I thought this was illegal.’ We might contact a seller and say we are interested and make the buy and then bust them like they do with drug dealers.”
Foy is among 350 other game wardens who works with the department to bust people with illegal animals. He has encountered everything from a drug dealer’s pet tiger to a guy who posted a picture of himself on Facebook posing with his pet fox.
Take a lesson from Dan Richards, former president of the Fish and Game Commission, who was recently ousted following pictures that surfaced showing him with a dead mountain lion he shot in Idaho.
In case you’re unsure, check out the Department’s lengthy list of species that are illegal to import, transport, possess or release alive in the state.