A Montreal woman has been arrested on charges of trying to cross the US border into Canada with "numerous undeclared wildlife items," including a three-toed sloth, 18 crocodile skulls and heads, and seven crocodile feet, per documents filed in federal court in Vermont, reports the AP. Vanessa Rondeau, the owner of the Old Cavern Boutique in Montreal, also was alleged to be in possession of two horseshoe crabs, 30 sea stars, 23 raccoon feet, eight African antelope horns, one human skull "with mounted butterflies," four puffer fish, and six shark jaws on Wednesday when she attempted to cross the border at Highgate Springs, Vt., according to the criminal complaint. Both sloth and crocodile are protected under the US Endangered Species Act and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, the Bennington Banner reported Friday. All wildlife must be declared to the FWS upon import into the US and prior to its export, per the ESA.
Rondeau entered the US 18 times between November 2018 and September 2019, mostly at the Champlain Port of Entry in New York, including a dozen times between midnight and 2am, Ryan Bessey, a special agent with the FWS, wrote in an affidavit. Working undercover, Bessey asked Rondeau in a private message in January 2020 if she had any polar bear skulls for sale, the affidavit states. Rondeau offered to sell a skull for $780 and Bessey received it in the mail, he said. Bessey bought another polar bear skull from Rondeau for $711, he said. The FWS had also intercepted packages she sent containing skulls from a bird, a weasel, and a bat, as well as the skin from a Hartmann's zebra, another protected species, the affidavit states. The Old Cavern Boutique "offers for sale a variety of unique curiosity and oddity items, many composed in whole or in part from wildlife," Bessey wrote. The Lacey Act prohibits the trafficking of items that come from endangered species.
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