BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WECT) - A Brunswick County man is facing dozens of felony charges after he allegedly poached Venus flytraps, a vulnerable plant species found only in southeastern North Carolina.
Archie Lee Williams Jr., 41, of Bolivia, was taken into custody Saturday, and charged with 73 felony counts of taking a Venus flytrap. He was booked in jail under a $750,000 bond.
Master Officer J.D. White with the N.C. Wildlife Commission said Williams’ arrest comes after a month-long investigation into the ongoing illegal poaching of the plants from the Pinch Gut game lands between U.S. 17 and N.C. 211.
White said he set up a motion-activated game camera to try and catch the thieves in action. On Saturday, White said while he was at a hunter education seminar in Harnett County, he received a picture of Williams making his way across the game land. White left the seminar in an attempt to intercept the suspect.
White, along with officer T.C. Stacy, stopped Williams, who admitted digging up the plants and selling them to an unidentified man in Brunswick County who then resold them.
Williams had an estimated 216 plants in a bag as well as tools he used for digging. White said Williams admitted to poaching the Venus flytraps once a week, rotating between various game lands across the county.
This isn’t an isolated incident in Brunswick County, according to White. He estimated that around 200 of the plants are stolen from game lands every week.
“This is an ongoing thing,” White said. “It’s almost impossible to catch them without the help of the public...and just dumb luck.”
The small, carnivorous plants only naturally grow in one spot on Earth: a 70-mile radius around Wilmington.
That’s why in 2014, a bill was signed into law that changed poaching the plants from a misdemeanor to a Class H felony, punishable by up to 25 months in prison.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reviewing a petition to include the Venus flytrap on the endangered species list.