Poachers pilfer saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) berries from natural areas in the fall. Berries begin to ripen in August. Evidence of such theft in 2014 at the south Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area is shown above.
One saw palmetto can produce from 100-500 berries. These berries are an important high-calorie, high-fat food source for all sorts of wildlife from birds to bears. Beginning last year, harvesters are required to have documented landowner permission and a permit.
Approximately 45 – 50 million pounds of berries — with an estimated value of $15,000,000 — are harvested each year, mostly from Florida. Big money sometimes brings out bad people. Kudos to the Sebastian police officer who arrested a poacher.
Harvesting is illegal on Indian River County (IRC) conservation lands. IRC Conservation Area Land Manager Beth Powell asks that you report any illegal harvesting activity to the Indian River County Sheriff Office on their non-emergency line: 569 – 6700. If possible, be ready to provide a vehicle description and license plate number.