CASEY KEY, Florida -- Smiling for the camera, wildlife officials are looking for a man who allegedly violated a sea turtle nest. A photographer just happened upon him and snapped his picture, his hands buried in the sand grasping for turtle eggs in a protected nest on Casey Key.
PHOTOS: Officials looking for alleged sea turtle egg thief
"The individual appears to have dug up a marked sea turtle nest. Disturbing the eggs and the nest is against state law as well as federal, punishable by five years in prison and a $5,000 fine," said Ofc. Baryl Martin, public information officer for Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Another picture shows an even better shot of the suspect's face. He told the photographer he was taking the eggs to release them into the ocean after they hatched, but that doesn't wash with FWC.
The odds are against sea turtles. They're so at risk only one in 1,000 hatchlings will make it to adulthood. And this nest violation is a smack in the face to dozens of volunteers and scientists who have dedicated their lives to turtle survival.
Also Read: Sea turtle fact sheet from Defenders.org
"All species of sea turtles are endangered or threatened, so anything that's going to compromise their survival is going to be a problem," said Hayley Rutger of Mote Marine Laboratory.
Every sea turtle nest is clearly marked, no matter where it's located on Florida's coastline, so ignorance is no excuse, and the FWC has a message for this alleged egg thief.
"Turn yourself in. We're looking for you and we're going to find you," said Ofc. Martin.
If you have any information on the suspect or can identify him, call 1-888-404-FWCC.