BAINBRIDGE, Ga. — A federal grand jury has indicted a 36-year-old Bainbridge, Georgia man for the alleged illegal trapping and exporting of thousands of freshwater turtles.
According to the U.S. Attorney, Nathan Horton exported thousands of illegally captured turtles in Georgia over a two-year period in violation of the Lacey Act, which regulates the trafficking and labeling of wildlife, fish, and plants.
"Illegal wildlife trafficking both decimates species and undermines the rule of law," said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak. "We are committed to working with our law enforcement partners to prosecute those who violate our nation’s wildlife protection statutes for the sake of illegal profit."
According to Pak, the Lacey Act regulates the collecting, trapping, exporting, trading, and selling of freshwater turtles from land belonging to the state of Georgia. As with other wildlife, the Department of Natural Resources regulates the number of turtles that may be collected as well as the manner in which they are trapped.
According to state law, a turtle trap "must be constructed of netting and shaped as hoop nets ... [and] must also have one open-muzzle or throat at least 32 inches wide with a ring ten inches in diameter made into the rear of the trap to permit fish to escape."
The indictment and other information presented in court indicates that beginning as early as July 2015, and continuing through at least July 2017, Horton shipped thousands of freshwater turtles from Georgia to California that had been trapped using turtle nets that were deemed illegal under Georgia state law.
Although Horton did have a Commercial Turtle Permit, he repeatedly used illegal traps to capture the turtles, according to officials.
Among the species that Horton captured, according to Pak, were the Stripe-necked musk turtle (Sternotherus minor peltifer), Loggerhead musk turtle (Sternotherus minor), Common musk turtle or stinkpot or eastern musk turtle (Sternotherus odoratus), and Eastern mud turtles (Kinosternon subrubrum).
Horton was arraigned on Dec. 10, 2020, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Justin S. Anand.
The public is reminded that the indictment only contains charges and that the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty at trial.
The case is being investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.