It used to be a misdemeanor to steal Venus flytraps from the wild. But the law changed in November, and now four suspects face felony charges, and up to 39 months in jail.
Hervey McIver of the Nature Conservancy says there’s high demand for Venus flytraps for novelty as well as medicinal use. The plants only grow wild in a roughly-100-mile radius around the Wilmington area.
“When we have increased poaching, those few numbers are just further diminished,” McIver says. “And there's talk about bringing the status of the plant from a species of concern to a threatened status.”
State Representative Ted Davis of Wilmington says he hopes Pender County prosecutes to the full extent of the law.
More than 900 rare, wild Venus flytraps were poached this time around.
David Welch works for the state Agriculture Department. He says the poached plants are in Wilmington's care, for now.
“That's our hope, is to put them back in the wild, so they can be productive and be part of the ecosystem again,” says Welch.
Welch says he hopes felony convictions will ward of prospective poachers.