CORYDON, Ind. (WDRB) -- Criminals are going to extremes to illegally harvest wild ginseng. And now law enforcement officials are working to get to the root of the problem as they've made five arrests in the last couple weeks.

Criminals in search of the highly sought after wild root have been trespassing on other people's property to get to it. 

"We've been inundated with complaints about illegal ginseng activity," said Officer Jim Schreck with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

Schreck says most people might not even notice it.

"It's just kind of a gnarly little root that most people would step right over."

Ginseng is used in some kinds of medicines, energy drinks and tea. A pound of it can go for about $400, but Schreck says the price can go even higher.

"In some years it's upwards of a thousand dollars a pound," Schreck said. 

Most of the complaints made to law enforcement officials have come from property owners. 

"A case we had yesterday, a land owner was observant and saw a truck drop off two men with shovels. And the truck sped off," Schreck said. 

That's when police were called.  

"And we responded, and got lucky to actually catch them just as they were going to sell it," Schreck said. 

It is illegal to dig ginseng on state DNR properties and private property between Sept. 1 and Dec. 31 unless you have permission. 

Schreck says illegal ginseng harvesting isn't taken lightly, especially since they're dealing with career criminals. 

"That's their plan," Schreck said. "They don't have a job; their job is to go out and steal ginseng and that's why we treat it so seriously."

If you suspect illegal ginseng activity, you can call Indiana conservation officers at 1-800-TIP-IDNR. If your tip results in an arrest, you could receive up to a $200 reward. 


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