Devils Hole Vandals Identified

Combination of two photos from security cameras: blue OHV outside the fence and three men inside the fence.
Still images from two security cameras at Devils Hole. The blue OHV has driven around one gate to get to this enclosure. Three men and a shotgun are seen inside the Devils Hole enclosure.

NPS

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News Release Date: May 10, 2016

Contact: Abby Wines, 760-786-3221

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.

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:



-NPS-

Last updated: May 10, 2016

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P.O. Box 579
Death Valley, CA 92328

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