Horseshoe crabs–spiky, prehistoric-looking things like the specimens pictured above–it turns out, are more valuable than you might think. This week, four men illegally took at least 200 of the creatures from an island in Jamaica Bay, ostensibly to sell them as fishing bait (the crabs fetch about $5 a piece).

Fortunately for the little critters, an NYPD helicopter happened to be flying overhead as the deed was being done, and followed two of the men on a 30-minute, late-night chase that ended in Sheepshead Bay the New York Times reports. The horseshoe crabs survived, and were returned to their habitat alive and well.

The two men, Robert Wolter, 28, and Joseph Knauer, 33, face a $500 fine or six months in prison.

(Photo: Amy Roe/Flickr)