Ga. wildlife agents strike, bringing down snake smugglers

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. 20, 2023 at 12:15 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Georgia wildlife agents helped seize nearly 200 of the world’s most venomous varieties of snakes and arrested eight people in a bust dubbed “Operation Viper.”

Charges were filed against the eight suspects on Jan. 12.

The operation was launched after the Georgia Department of Natural Resources began been receiving reports and complaints indicating that a black market existed for the sale and purchase of illegal and highly dangerous venomous reptiles in Georgia.

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.

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 treatment or many of their bites is available in Georgia.

Charges against the eight people range from second-degree misdemeanors to third-degree felonies related to the illegal trafficking of venomous and exotic snakes.

Timothy James Gould, 38, 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.

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, Georgia officials said.

Georgia wildlife officials pointed out that these snakes pose a risk to the public.

In 2014, an albino cobra escaped its owner and slithered around the L.A. suburb of Thousand Oaks for days before it was caught. The dangerous snake didn’t bite anyone, but many residents were horrified about what could’ve happened. A Cape cobra also escaped from the same owner, and a neighbor spotted it slithering across a road. She deliberately ran over the snake.