By Matt Wiley | August 13
A Wesley Chapel man has been released, after turning himself in for being illegally in the possession of a sea turtle.
According to a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) report, Kim Raymond Feaste, 21 — whose permanent address is in the Williamsburg community of Wesley Chapel (just north of the Hillsborough-Pasco county line) — turned himself in to the Orient Rd. jail in Tampa on September 1, after Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) authorities visited his apartment the day before.
“(FWC) had put out a news release with his photograph, asking for the public’s help identifying him,” says FWC spokesperson Gary Morse. “As a result, we received a significant number of calls to the FWC Alert Hotline and we were able to determine his name and his whereabouts.”
The FWC release, dated August 13, describes a photographer’s encounter with Feaste, who was photographed digging in a Loggerhead sea turtle (which is classified as an “endangered” species by the International Union for Censervation of Nature, or IUCN) nest on Casey Key in Sarasota County. When asked what he was doing, Feaste replied that he was “collecting turtle eggs to be released when they hatched.”
Morse says that there was plenty of evidence at Feaste’s apartment, located in downtown Tampa, to determine that he was, indeed, the man they were looking for.
“There were various indications and evidence that he had illegal possession of a sea turtle,” Morse says. “Plus, there was a picture of a sea turtle in a tank in the same apartment.”
However, Morse explains, the turtle that Feaste is accused of being in possession of is actually from a separate incident than the photos of him digging in the Casey Key nest. In other words, Morse says that the photo of Feaste digging in a nest was apparently not the only time that he has disturbed one.
“There have been a number of sea turtle nest disturbances in the past year,” Morse says. “This is the first case that we have been able to close. Without the cooperation of the public and the media, (FWC) wouldn’t have been able to find (Feaste). It’s hard to catch these people in the act.”
Feaste has been charged with possessing an endangered sea turtle, a third degree felony. He was released from the Hillsborough County jail on a $2,000 bond, but Morse says that additional charges could follow in Sarasota County for the disturbance of the Casey Key nest in August. His case is still under investigation.
Punishment for disrupting a sea turtle nest is no joke. It is a violation of both federal and state law. According to FWC, those convicted of doing so are subject to a fine of up to $5,000 and/or five years behind bars.
For more information about sea turtles and their protection, please visit MyFWC.com/SeaTurtle.