A North Carolina man caught Saturday with more than 200 Venus flytraps is in jail for taking the protected plants, according to a wildlife official.
Archie Lee Williams Jr., who planned to sell the carnivorous plants, had about 216 of them, WECT reports.
“They were all fresh,” said John White, master officer with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, in a phone interview with McClatchy. “They still had moist dirt around the roots. They had not wilted yet.”
Officers say they found Williams with digging tools and that he admitted to taking Venus flytraps each week, WECT reports. He was arrested in Brunswick County in “the first large-scale case of Venus Flytrap stealing in years,” the Port City Daily wrote.
Venus flytraps are considered a “vulnerable” species, according to the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ protected plant list. The plant is native to a “60-to-70 mile radius of Wilmington,” and poaching it was elevated to a felony in 2014, the Port City Daily reports.
Williams was charged with 73 counts of taking a Venus flytrap, jail records show. He received a $750,000 bond.
The arrest came after an investigation that examined foot traffic and video footage, according to White. After a month of effort, he said it’s rewarding to take a step toward sustaining a rare plant.
Venus flytraps are “stolen from game lands every week,” and people sell the plants to make a profit, White said, per WECT and an interview with McClatchy.
As for the Venus flytraps seized this weekend, officers are trying to replant them, according to White.