That won’t fly: Venus flytrap thief snags prison sentence in North Carolina

Man who stole nearly 1,000 plants to get at least six monthsState made law to protect the rare, carnivorous plant in 2014

A North Carolina man will spend at least six months in prison after he removed nearly 1,000 Venus flytrap plants from public game lands.

Media outlets reported that a jury found 23-year-old Paul Simmons Jr guilty. A judge sentenced him on Tuesday to six months to 17 months in prison.

Venus flytraps only grow in wetlands and bogs of south-east North Carolina and north-east South Carolina an area with about a 70-mile radius. The carnivorous plants, which trap and consume insects, are protected by state law. Poaching them was made a felony in North Carolina in December 2014.

Prosecutors say Simmons was caught by a wildlife officer with 970 plants in his vehicle in January 2015 at the Holly Shelter Game Land in Hampstead.

Two others with Simmons received probation, while a fourth defendant is awaiting trial. The four people arrested in 2015 were caught after a witness saw one running across the road of a game shelter with a large sack on his back.

Venus flytraps are a unique and important part of south-eastern North Carolinas ecosystem, district attorney Ben David said at the time. I am proud that the fifth district will be the first to prosecute the new felony charge and commend NC wildlife resources for their enforcement of the law.

In 2014 a frequent thief was sentenced to five and a half months in prison for stealing almost 300 plants from a national park, and another man was sentenced to 80 days and a $1,000 fine.

That year governor Pat McCrory signed a law that made up poaching the plants punishable by up to 25 months in prison, and no limits on fines.

The states decision to further protect the plants was prompted by the theft of more than 1,000 plants from a park in the coastal town of Wilmington in 2013. At a Wilmington flytrap farm that same year, thousands of plants were stolen in a theft that the city valued at $20,000.

The rarity of the planet, its distinctive jaws and carnivorous nature have made the plant popular with collectors: in addition to legal sales, stolen plants often appear in roadside stands and online.

Read more: