Law enforcement officials in Nevada have arrested three men in connection to a recent alcohol-fueled rampage near Death Valley National Park that might have caused the death of an endangered species of fish.
The critically endangered Devils Hole pupfish has been described as the world’s rarest fish and is believed to have evolved only a few hundred years ago. Devils Hole current serves as home to around 115 of these small fish that measure in at less than one inch in length. Their habitat in the Amargosa Desert ecosystem just east of Death Valley is closely monitored by the National Park Service to protect them against natural threats such as earthquakes and flash flooding.
The accused approached the area on a side-by-side off road vehicle and climbed the fence constructed to guard Devils Hole on April 20 at around 7:30pm. With a shotgun in tow, the three men recklessly shot the locks off of two gates, motion sensors and several signs, leaving behind beer cans, vomit, discarded under garments and one deceased Devils Hole pupfish.
“The intrusion is believed to have resulted in the death of at least one endangered Devils Hole pupfish, and fisheries biologists are trying to ascertain the extended damage that may have been done to food sources and egg sites, which could lead to more loss of a species whose numbers are now below the last count of 115 in existence,” the Nye County Sheriff’s Office said, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Earlier in the week, the National Parks Service released security camera footage from the escapade.
Trenton Sargent, 26, of Indian Springs, Nevada; Steven Schwinkendorf, 29, of Pahrump, Nevada; and Edgar Reyes, 35, of North Las Vegas, Nevada — were identified through DNA evidence left at the site, and were placed under arrest.
The three men are facing charges of conspiracy to commit a crime, killing an endangered species, destruction of property, trespassing and destruction of habitat. The charge of killing an endangered species is a felony offense and, if convicted, the suspects could face a $50,000 fine paired with a year behind bars.
H/T: Los Angeles Times