FWC’s Operation Viper Leads To 8 Arrests For Prohibited And Venomous Snake TraffickingThe inland taipan snake is also known as the fierce snake. Photo by reptiles4all/Shutterstock

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FWC’s Operation Viper Leads To 8 Arrests For Prohibited And Venomous Snake Trafficking

The commission had been receiving reports and complaints claiming that a black market for the sale and trade of venomous reptiles in Florida exists

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Division of Law Enforcement has filed charges against eight people for trafficking in venomous

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The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Division of Law Enforcement has filed charges against eight people for trafficking in venomous and prohibited snakes. The charges range from second degree misdemeanors to third degree felonies for those charged.

“Some of these snakes are among the most dangerous in the world,” Maj. Randy Bowlin, FWC DLE Investigations and Intelligence Section Leader said in a statement announcing the arrests. “Florida’s rules and laws are in place to protect the public and prevent tragedies from occurring.”

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saw scaled viper

Saw scaled vipers are native to Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Photo by reptiles4all/Shutterstock

According to a press release put out by the FWC, the commission had been receiving reports and complaints claiming that a black market for the sale and trade of venomous reptiles in Florida exists. Keeping venomous snakes in the state is highly regulated and require permits. The apparent illegal sale and purchase of these reptiles undermines law abiding captive wildlife dealers who operate within the law, the FWC said. The illegal sale of these animals also could threaten the long-term well-being of the states wildlife populations if some of these animals were to escape.


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Operation Viper launched in 2020 and over the course of the two year investigation, the FWC seized about 200 snakes consisting of 24 species from around the world. Included in the seizures were the inland taipan (Oxyuranus microlepidotus), bushmaster (Lachesis sp), rhinoceros viper (Bitis nasicornis), African bush viper (Atheris spp.), Gaboon viper (Bitis spp.), green mamba (Dendroaspis angusticeps), eyelash viper (Bothriechis schlegelii), several species of spitting cobra (Naja spp.), forest cobra (Naja melanoleuca), puff adder (Bitis arietans) and saw-scaled vipers (Echis spp.).

“The actions of individuals such as the ones charged today make our jobs at VENOM 1 and 2 only that much harder,” said Dr. Benjamin Abo, Primary investigator and Medical Director of Venom 1 and 2 Venom Response Units. “We fight every day to keep people alive and minimize permanent complications after a tragic bite occurs. The rules for the transportation, caging and handling of these animals are in place for important reasons.”