Published: Sep 17, 2010 6:32 PM EDT
Updated: Sep 17, 2010 3:32 PM EDT

GLADES COUNTY, Fla. - An early morning traffic stop Thursday by Glades County Sheriff’s Office deputies led to the arrest of two men on charges of alligator poaching. When deputies stopped a pickup on Highway 78 near Moore Haven and looked in the bed of the truck, they discovered 36 dead alligators piled on top of each other and a bag containing 19 live alligator hatchings. Only one of the alligators was legally tagged.

At that point, deputies called officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to investigate.

FWC investigators charged Joel M. Green of Fort Myers (DOB 11/29/62) and Donald T. Strenth (DOB 10/12/87) of Moore Haven with 54 felony counts each on illegal possession of American alligators. Both men are being held at the Glades County Jail with no bond.

The alligators were taken to a licensed processor, and the hides will be retained for evidence. The live hatchlings were returned to the wild. It is unclear where the alligators came from or what the men were doing with them.

“We hope this case sends a strong message to any would-be poachers,” said FWC investigator Capt. Jeff Ardelean. “We will find you and hold you accountable for wildlife law violations.”

American alligators are protected under state law. It is unlawful to kill, injure, capture or possess, or to attempt to kill, injure, capture or possess an American alligator without authorization from the FWC.