In the ’70s, Texas declared the alligator snapper—a large species of freshwater turtle found primarily in the southeastern U.S.—as threatened. It became illegal to capture them, as well as traffic them out of the state. But that didn’t stop the Dietzes, a Louisiana family of prolific turtle hunters. In this engrossing true-crime feature, Sonia Smith recounts how a wildlife inspector infiltrated the family’s decades-long turtle poaching operation.

The sale of alligator snapping turtle meat was banned in Louisiana in 2004 (and has long been illegal in Texas), but Colo, Viola, and other local sellers had no trouble finding a wide array of buyers for their catches, including a former starting pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, an auto mechanic, and a local businessman who has since been elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives.

Guidry asked him to estimate how many turtles weighing more than one hundred pounds he had caught in Toledo Bend. Without hesitation, Colo answered “five hundred.” “There ain’t nobody gonna ever catch as many turtles as I caught, because you could wipe out all the rest that they’ve got in Louisiana and Texas and never have as much as I caught,” Colo boasted. “That’s all I used to do. Twice a week I’d go.”

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.