Video of men harassing wildlife leads to arrest
Two Miami-Dade men charged in February after videos surfaced of them harassing alligators and endangered Florida panther kittens in the Big Cypress National Preserve now face federal charges.
The state charged Alfredo Lopez de Queralta, 45, and Javier Torres, 42, with eight felony counts each of killing, injuring or possessing alligator eggs without authorization on Feb. 22. The United States Attorney's Office charged the men earlier this month with knowingly taking a Florida panther.
They were released on their own recognizance May 21.
Torres, of 14205 SW 154th St., and Queralta, of 1929 NW 25th Ave., were originally arrested after a joint investigation by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Parks Service that was prompted after Youtube videos showed up of Torres bothering gators and holding panther kittens. Queralta filmed the videos, according to FWC Investigator Guy Gilbert's report.
The video that sparked the probe was titled, "Pantera de la Florida con dos Cachorros," or "Florida Panther with two Cubs."
The video, according to Gilbert's report, shows Torres walking through a wooded area on the mainland Monroe County portion of the Big Cypress National Preserve, crawling into what turns out to be a panther den and scaring off an adult cat. The cameraman, Queralta, whispers, "Pantera."
Torres emerges with two kittens "kissing and cuddling them," Gilbert wrote in his report.
"He poses with the two kittens again before tossing them back into the den," according to Gilbert's affidavit.
The video then cuts to Torres lying on the ground crying.
"He stands up and explained that he was emotional because they had spent so much time trying to find a panther den, and it was a lot of work and took time away from their family," Gilbert wrote.
Other videos show Torres harassing alligators. In one, he wades into a swamp to capture an alligator, then holds the animal's mouth open while he puts his head inside the mouth, according to the FWC report.
Other videos show gators trying to get away from Torres as he pulls their tails. Some videos show Torres repeatedly smacking gators in the head.
Queralta and Torres, who could not be reached for comment, are scheduled to appear in court on the state charges July 10.