Two still images taken from security videos. The three men are inside the perimeter fence at the edge of Devils Hole.
Two still images taken from security videos. The three men are inside the perimeter fence at the edge of Devils Hole.

AMARGOSA VALLEY, NV –A multi-agency investigation has led to the identification of the three men believed to be responsible for the April 30 trespass and vandalism at Devils Hole in Death Valley National Park. The investigators thank members of the public for sending in tips and providing helpful information. This active case continues and no further details are available at this time.

At around 7:20pm on Saturday, April 30, three men in an OHV drove off-road around a gate at the Devils Hole parking lot. They discharged a firearm at least 10 times, shooting locks on two gates, a motion sensor on the security system, and several signs. They damaged scientific monitoring equipment. One man swam in Devils Hole and left his boxer shorts behind in the water. Alcohol was involved;three beer cans were left behind and one man vomited.

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Although the men attempted to dismantle the security system by shooting a motion sensor and removing cables from two cameras, parts of the system continued to function during their entire time at Devils Hole. Clips from the security cameras can be viewed at: https://www.nps.gov/deva/learn/photosmultimedia/videos.htm

Devils Hole–a detached unit of Death Valley National Park–is the only natural habitat of the critically endangered Devils Hole pupfish (Cyprinodon diabolis). The National Park Service works in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Nevada Department of Wildlife to protect the endangered Devils Hole pupfish and its habitat. There were only 115 observable pupfish in Devils Hole counted during April’s spring survey.

Park employees found one dead critically endangered Devils Hole pupfish floating in the water. The specimen was collected at 17:46 on May 2, 2016. Evaluation of the state of decay indicates the pupfish died approximately 24-48 hours earlier, a window of time that includes the men’s entry to Devils Hole.The cause of death is not known.

One of the men waded and swam in Devils Hole, causing potentially significant disruption to their habitat. The shallow underwater shelf is vital to the Devils Hole pupfish’s survival, providing algae and invertebrates for food and a spawning surface. Video footage recorded this man walking on the shallow shelf, potentially stressing and crushing pupfish, which are slow-moving, docile, and as they have no natural predators, curious by nature. April through May is the peak spawning season for this annual fish, and so the intruder likely crushed and destroyed eggs on the shelf. Many peer-reviewed reports, published scientific studies, as well as a Supreme Court case (Cappaert v. United States 1976) have identified the integrity of the shallow shelf ecosystem as critical to the survival of the Devils Hole pupfish. Any impact to the habitat of this critically endangered species is a concern.

The National Park Service’s Investigative Services Branch, Death Valley National Park, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Nye County Sheriff’s Office are investigating damage to government property and unauthorized entry of Devils Hole on April 30. The National Park Service is offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to arrest and conviction in this case. Any tips related to this case can be reported to the National Park Service’s Investigative Services Branch at:

 

Source: NPS

      

6 COMMENTS

  1. I do hope these young men will face a judge who will stun them with a harsh sentence that will teach them something rather than handing down incarceration. Community service of 1 year plus attending conservation classes should help. The one who discharged the firearm should have a felony on his record. All three have to learn responsibility for their actions before they can accept it.

  2. I’m not a tree hugger and believe that public lands should be open to all. BUT!!anyone who does this type of vandalism should be made an example of . That’s my desert!

  3. I totally agree with Jim. These acts are unconscionable and need to be addressed as felonies. Too many “dumb asses” think they can do whatever they want to out natural heritage, and need to pay dearly for the actions. Very stiff penalties and consequences will help dissuade others from following a similar corse.

  4. The taking of a federally listed species is punishable in criminal court by fines of $50,000 and one year in federal prison. In addition, there are civil fines of $25,000 that could be imposed. The State of California could also possibly impose fines and jail time in the state prison. Prison times may or may not run concurrently. Carrying firearms in national parks within the state of California is illegal unless the firearm is rendered non-functional AND remains within a vehicle. Discharge of firearms by private citizens in national parks anywhere is illegal under federal law. Contamination and destruction of a protected habitat, trespassing, destruction of federal property (locks), destruction of private property (research equipment), littering (underwear, bullet casings) –

    I hope whatever judge(s) has or have the opportunity to sentence these criminal vandals impose every possibly penalty on them, including community service for five years – picking up litter and cleaning up vomit left by other vandals.

  5. I hope they get what they deserve . This is our land and we have to protect it. They should never drink again.

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