DANVILLE — On Monday afternoon, in a woods near Danville, the search was on for two people who were allegedly stealing ginseng from the legal property owner.
Law enforcement officers from the Knox County Sheriff’s Office and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources were joined by Danville Police Sgt. Tom Looney and the canine Lasko in the hunt for the alleged poachers. Looney and Lasko followed the scent for about one-half mile, then lost the trail when the suspects apparently entered a cornfield.
Although one may think digging up and taking a wild root is no big deal, it really is, according to Mike Miller, a wildlife officer with ODNR. Miller said there are certain regulations regarding ginseng harvesting that must be followed.
“First,” he said, “to harvest the root, you have to do it in season, which starts Sept. 1. The root has to be a three-pronged plant or better with ripened berries. You have to have written permission from the landowner. And you have to keep accurate daily records of your ginseng digging. In this case, that has not happened.”
Miller said money is an incentive for people to steal ginseng, which grows wild in Ohio but is very difficult to domesticate.
“The price for ginseng right now,” he explained, “is $110 per green root. Two years ago the price was $800 to $1,000 per pound dry, and the dried today still brings anywhere from $300 to $400 a pound.”
Most of the ginseng, he said, goes to Asian markets.
Ginseng poaching has been a problem in Knox County — and Ohio — for years, Miller said.
“It’s a problem because people are trespassing on someone else’s property and they are stealing something of value from someone else,” he said. “There’s probably not a landowner in this county that hasn’t had someone steal ginseng off his property.”
One of the landowners, who’s name is being withheld to help avoid future poaching, affected by Monday’s activity said he has had issues with trespassers before, and has had ginseng taken from him before.
“There is another patch that we have been watching,” he said, “and, poof, one day it was gone. This stuff is really hard to grow. If you seed it, it takes a few years for it to germinate and grow. We harvest it selectively for our own use or to market it for ourselves, and replant the berries as soon as we dig the root. And [poachers] can wipe it out in 30 minutes.”
Miller said this morning the suspects were located and interviewed last evening and confessed. Misdemeanor charges will be filed in municipal court, said Miller. If convicted, the poachers can be fined up to $1,000 and be sentenced to up to six months in jail.
The names of the suspects have not been released because no charges had been filed as of press time.