Stopping Illegal Sales of Animals

Knoxville (WVLT) - We've all known the Great Smokies wildlife invite both appreciation and exploitation.

Only on WVLT Stephen McLamb brings you details of what's been called one of the largest undercover operations to protect our animals and birds and stop such illegal sales.

A Friday raid on three Sevier county businesses lands four people in jail on charges of illegal possession and trafficing in wildlife.

"In Tennessee, it's illegal for places to sell the majority of species of wildlife unless they have certain permits," says TWRA officer Joe Everett.

In all, more than 70 items were confiscated.

"Birds of prey, hawks, owls, songbirds, snakes, bears, deer," says Everett.

Officials say the illegal buying and selling of wildlife is a major problem.

"For a lot of people, it's the novelty of having something that other people don't have," says Everett.

TWRA officers say James Burrell and his wife Gwendolyn were charged after first solicited at the Antique Mall in Sevierville then led to their home where undercover officers were sold a bear rug and horned owl's foot.

In Gatlinburg, Katherine Latham was charged at Park Place after she allegedly sold undercover officers a bear claw necklace.

"It scared me to death to be honest with you. You know, if I had thought I was doing anything wrong it would have been different," says Katherine Latham.

Latham says the necklace was made by Indians out of state and didn't know it was illegal.

"Nobody of any authority has ever told me anything like this," says Latham.

"These people for the most part have been warned in the past," says Everett.

But most of the items confiscated were from Young's Taxidermy where Arthur Young was charged and arrested when authorities found many frozen animals and different species like a road runner.

"Either they weren't keeping the proper records or they were taking animals that they are not allowed to do taxidermy on," says Everett.

All those charged have bonded out, except Arthur Young, on investigative hold.

Wildlife officials say there could be more charges and arrests some of them, federal.