LAS VEGAS, NV – An Indian Springs, Nevada, felon who fired a shotgun at the Devils Hole gate padlock, destroyed a surveillance camera and equipment, and harmed endangered pupfish will be serving time behind bars.
Trenton Sargent, 28, pleaded guilty in July to one count of violation of the Endangered Species Act, one count of destruction of United States property, and one count of felon in possession of a firearm. As a felon, he is prohibited from possessing firearms and ammunition.
On October 25, 2018, U.S. District Judge Andrew P. Gordon sentenced Sargent to 12 months and a day in prison and three years of supervised release, announced U.S. Attorney Dayle Elieson and Death Valley National Park Superintendent Mike Reynolds.
The inch-long, blue Devils Hole pupfish is a Nevada state and federally listed endangered species. The Endangered Species Act was enacted to provide a program for the conservation of endangered and threatened species.
Devils Hole is the only location in the world where this species of pupfish exists in the wild. Devils Hole is a detached unit of Death Valley National Park, located in Amargosa Valley, Nevada.
Just weeks before the April 30, 2016 incident, a scientific survey of Devils Hole observed only 115 pupfish, which are among the rarest fishes on Earth.
Sargent admitted that he and co-defendants Edgar Reyes and Steven Schwinkendorf rammed their ATV into the fence surrounding Devils Hole, severely damaging the gate. Then, Sargent fired a Mossbert 500 shotgun at the padlock on the gate. After their attempts to open the gate were unsuccessful, the men scaled the fence. Once in the enclosed area, they destroyed a sensor center for cameras and equipment for the area, and destroyed a video surveillance camera belonging to the National Park Service. Then, Sargent stepped into the water onto the Devils Hole shallow shelf. In doing so, he smashed pupfish eggs and larvae pupfish during the peak spawning season for pupfish, who lay their eggs on the shallow shelf.
Reyes, 37, of North Las Vegas, and Schwinkendorf, 31, of Pahrump, previously pleaded guilty to destruction of government property and violation of the Endangered Species Act. They were each sentenced to one year probation.
The investigation was conducted by the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Nye County Sheriff’s Office. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tony Lopez.
To learn more about the Devils Hole pupfish and recovery actions, go to www.nps.gov/deva/learn/nature/devils-hole.htm.
To report a suspicious or criminal activity in a national park site, call the National Park Service tip line at 1-888-653-0009 or visit www.nps.gov. For more information on the Department of Justice’s wildlife protection efforts, visit www.justice.gov/enrd.