Nevada law enforcement officials have arrested three men who allegedly went on a drunken rampage near Death Valley National Park that may have caused the death of an endangered fish, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The men — 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.
"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 Times.
(Image via US Fish and Wildlife Service)
The inch-long, iridescent blue Devils Hole pupfish is among the rarest fishes in the world, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, occupying one of the smallest habitats — a single cavern in the Mojave Desert — of any known vertebrate. It was listed as endangered in 1967 and remains at "significant risk of extinction," according to the agency.
The men face charges of conspiracy to commit a crime, killing an endangered species, destruction of property, trespassing, and destruction of habitat.
Killing an endangered species is a felony, and the suspects face fines of up to $50,000 and a year in jail if they are convicted.
Law enforcement and National Park Service officials say the men trespassed on the park on April 30. They allegedly fired shotguns, left behind beer cans and a pair of boxer shorts, and vomited. At least one of the men went skinny-dipping in Devils Hole, where the rare pupfish is found.
The National Parks Service posted security camera footage of the drunken escapade on Monday.
Ileene Anderson, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, which offered a $10,000 reward for the capture of the suspects, called their actions "stupid."
"Places like Death Valley National Park and other public lands are treasures that are owned by the American people," she said. "Crimes like these are crimes against all of us who own and love these spectacular places."
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