It’s been a tough week and a half for Florida Keys wildlife, on land and in the water.
We were all outraged — indeed, outrage checked in from throughout the nation — when two men from the mainland, one from Miami-Dade and one from Broward, were caught July 2 with three endangered Key deer stuffed into a Hyundai, two in the back seat and one in the trunk. Even for environmental crimes, and we have lots of them, this was something no one could recall in recent memory.
Hat’s off to Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Austin Hopp for being alert and pulling them over early in the morning on Barry Avenue on Little Torch Key after noticing the car’s license-plate light wasn’t working. The two men, Anthony Younge, 23, and Erik Damas Acosta, 18, are each charged with 12 crimes, including three felony counts of wounding a protected species.
They’re scheduled for arraignment July 19 in Key West and can expect to be greeted by an angry crowd of onlookers in the courtroom. The fact that one of the deer had to be euthanized due to its injuries will not help their case. Perhaps we’ll finally get an explanation from them why they decided to take three protected deer from their habitat and stuff them in a car.
Then we have the brainiacs from Alabama and Georgia, seven in all, who were found Sunday near Vaca Cut in Marathon with 137 illegally caught lobsters by alert Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers Alex Piekenbrock and Jefferson Carroll. Another 183 lobsters were found in the house the men were renting.
These guys did everything wrong: It’s not lobster season, the lobster were undersize, they had wrung the lobsters’ tails on the water (illegal) and they would be well over the limit even if it were lobster season, during which one can take six lobster per person per day.
For their little fishing expedition, the seven brainiacs each face two felony counts for the undersize lobster and 600 misdemeanor counts for the rest of their horrible behavior. Court dates weren’t set as of Tuesday. The defendants are father and son Leon Reeves, 48, and Robinson Reeves, 19; father and son Francis Bartkiewicz, 57, and son Kyle Bartkiewicz, 23; and Jeffrey Barket, 44, David Gilmore, 55, and Jeffrey Honnell, 45.
The deer poachers and lobster poachers have rightfully been pilloried in the online public square, from websites to social media. While we have some homegrown bad apples here in the Keys, we don’t have people taking endangered Key deer and we generally don’t have people who blatantly pillage our marine eco-system. We all know that without a healthy environment, and that includes our wildlife and marine life, our economy would tank.
We give a loud shout-out to the law officers who caught these nine people who were showing no regard for our community and our environment. In their own ways, they have become environmental heroes. Well done, gentlemen.