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13 reptiles stolen from Punta Gorda breeder

Updated: May. 20, 2021 at 9:28 PM EDT
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PUNTA GORDA, Fla. (WWSB) - Jesse Hardin’s tegus were worth $35,000 alone, according to the Charlotte County breeder. They were stolen earlier this week.

Some of the reptiles that were stolen were albinos that were nesting, meaning their eggs could’ve been worth around $250,000.

He says the whole theft was over in a matter of minutes.

“One of the girls had been in the process of actually pushing out eggs,” Hardin said. “We came out to check on her at 11:30, 11:35, and when we came out, her hide was flipped over, eggs were scattered across the cage, she was missing.”

Hardin found that he had 12e other missing tegus, which are large reptiles, bigger than an iguana.

Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are working together on the investigation because the stolen property is livestock.

“This is a tragic incident. This is his family, these are his pets,” Det. Matthew Chandler said. “We need the public’s help to get these guys back. To just get them back under one roof again.”

The CCSO wasn’t able to disclose any leads, but Hardin said it’s impossible for any beginner or inexperienced handler to have stolen his animals.

“They’re big, formidable animals,” Hardin said. “Some of the animals they took were almost pushing five-foot, fifty-six inches, up in that range. Those aren’t just going to be easily handled by a beginner or inexperienced person.”

But money aside, size aside, Hardin says these tegus are part of his family. Some of the ones that were taken, like a large show tegu, aren’t even being used for breeding anymore. They’re just pets. And Hardin said he just wants his family members back.

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