Authorities seek men over damaging Death Valley binge
AMARGOSA VALLEY, Nev. – Authorities on Monday were searching for three men who went on a drunken binge in an environmentally fragile area of Death Valley National Park, leaving behind beer cans, shotgun shells, vomit, underwear — and possibly killing one of the rarest fishes on earth.
The men climbed a fence guarding Devils Hole, a detached area of the park located in southwestern Nevada, around 7:30 p.m. on April 30, according to the National Park Service.
They fired at least 10 rounds from a shotgun, shooting the locks off of two gates and hitting a motion sensor and several signs. They also left beer cans and vomit, and one man waded into Devils Hole, leaving his boxer shorts in the water, the Park Service said.
Devils Hole is a cavern pool fed by a hot spring and is the only natural home of the tiny Devils Hole pupfish. The iridescent blue fish is considered critically endangered. Only around 115 currently live in Devils Hole, which is more than 500 feet deep in parts but less than 2 feet deep where the fish feed.
The pupfish was at the center of a 1976 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that barred groundwater pumping for agricultural use near the site because of its impact on Devils Hole.
On Monday, one of the pupfish was found dead, the Park Service said. It will be examined to determine whether the actions of the men killed it.
Video recorded the men climbing a fence and driving away in what appeared to be a modified blue Yamaha Rhino off-road vehicle. The Park Service is offering a $5,000 reward leading to the men's arrest and conviction. The Center for Biological Diversity is adding another $10,000 to the pot.
"Devil's Hole pupfish have been teetering on the brink of extinction for years. The last thing they need are these idiots running amok in the last place on Earth where they still survive," said Ileene Anderson, a senior scientist with the conservation group.