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Florida man caught killing, and eating, threatened tortoises

By Daniel Wallis

MIAMI (Reuters) - Wildlife authorities in Florida caught a man who killed and ate 15 gopher tortoises and planned to slaughter 11 more of the threatened reptiles, a spokeswoman said on Thursday.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said a tip-off led an officer to woods in Citrus County on Florida's west coast where he found tire tracks and shells dumped on the ground. Returning the next day, he found a container holding 11 live gopher tortoises.

"He hid himself and waited, figuring the subject would return that afternoon," the FWC said in a statement, adding that when the man came back he admitted to feasting on the threatened species.

Katie Purcell, a spokeswoman for the FWC's law enforcement division, said prosecutors were preparing appropriate charges. The 11 tortoises were set free.

The officer involved, Thomas Reid, told a local TV station, WFTS Tampa Bay, the man knew what he was doing was a crime.

"I don't think anyone would hide tortoises out in the woods if they didn't think they were doing anything wrong," Reid said.

Florida designates gopher tortoises as a threatened species, meaning it is illegal even to possess one, let alone eat them.

(Editing by David Adams and Sandra Maler)

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