Nearly 200 venomous snakes seized in Georgia, Florida illegal trafficking

According to FWC, several complaints were filed in 2020 indicating that a black market existed for the sale and purchase of dangerous and venomous reptiles.
Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 4:46 PM EST
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - “Operation Viper” has uncovered a ring for black-market venomous snakes, including some of the most dangerous in the world, officials said.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission filed charges against eight people ranging from second-degree misdemeanors to third-degree felonies related to the illegal trafficking of venomous and exotic snakes.

38-year-old Timothy James Gould of Central City, PA was taken into custody on Jan. 12 in Georgia on numerous felony and misdemeanor arrest warrants. The other seven suspects were arrested in Florida.

“Over the course of the multi-state investigation, nearly 200 snakes, consisting of 24 species from seven different regions of the globe, were purchased from or sold to wildlife traffickers by undercover investigators,” a news release stated.

According to FWC, several complaints were filed in 2020 indicating that a black market existed for the sale and purchase of dangerous and venomous reptiles.

“Some of those species include the inland taipan, bushmaster, rhinoceros viper, African bush viper, Gaboon viper, green mamba, eyelash viper, multiple species of spitting cobra, forest cobra, puff adder, and saw-scaled vipers. Several of these snakes are listed in the top 10 deadliest in the world and no anti-venom for the treatment of snake bites for several of the species is available in Georgia.”

When arrested, Gould had 27 exotic venomous snakes in his possession illegally.

“Gould is a well-established wildlife transporter and is unpermitted in the state of Georgia and Florida for any captive wildlife, let alone venomous reptiles. He advertises his illegal transport services on a popular online marketplace for wildlife dealers. When arrested, Gould had 27 exotic venomous snakes in his possession illegally.”

According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, illicit wildlife trafficking is estimated to be between $7.8 billion and $10 billion per year.

Wildlife trafficking ranks fourth behind, drugs, weapons, and humans in global activity, and is often a nexus for other illegal activities.