LAKE COUNTY, Fla. - A Lake County man has been arrested after deputies said he was digging up gopher tortoises to take them home and eat them.
Deputies received a call Monday of a Nathaniel Harris Sr., 79, digging for the tortoises near Highway 44/46A in Sorrento.
Deputies said they found in the cab section of the truck two gopher tortoises side by side inside a plastic tote container. Both were alive, but one of them was injured, deputies said.
Deputies said 200 feet away, they saw Harris shoving a wooden pole that had a 17 inch thick wire at the end into a gopher tortoise burrow hole. Harris told deputies, “I’m catching gopher tortoises, taking them home to eat.”
Deputies removed the pole from Harris. They also removed a .22 long rifle from his vehicle, investigators said.
Gopher tortoises are a protected threatened species, and it’s illegal to take, kill or destroy them.
Harris has been charged with possession/take of a threatened species.
Harris is in the Lake County Jail.
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