AMARGOSA VALLEY, NV -- Investigators have identified three men believed to be responsible for an April 30 incident of vandalism at Devils Hole in Death Valley National Park, but the multi-agency investigative task force is not revealing their identities publicly as of yet. The three left empty beer cans and a pool of vomit in their wake, while one of the men took a swim, leaving his floating boxers behind.
On the evening of Saturday, April 30, three men in an OHV drove off-road, bypassing a gate at the Devils Hole parking lot. The men proceeded to shoot locks on two gates, a motion sensor on a security system, several signs, and scientific monitoring equipment - firing off at least 10 shots.
The three attempted to disable cameras by shooting equipment and yanking cables, but part of the security system continued to work during their time at Devils Hole, hence the detailed account. Security camera footage can be viewed below.
While investigating the incident, Park Service employees found one dead, critically endangered, Devils Hole pupfish (Cyprinodon diabolis). There were only 115 pupfish in Devils Hole counted during the spring survey. “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.” said NPS investigators.
The man who swam in Devils Hole also likely caused significant disruption to pupfish habitat. According to NPS investigators: “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.”
The Devils Hole pupfish is endemic to Devils Hole, a geothermal aquifer-fed pool in the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, which is a 40-acre detached unit of Death Valley National Park. Scientific journal articles suggest the fish is the rarest in the world and may possibly have evolved only a few hundred years ago. Many peer-reviewed reports, published scientific studies, and a Supreme Court case 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 of concern.
“Devils 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,” Center for Biological Diversity scientist Ileene Anderson said, according to CBS News.
Investigators thanked 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. The National Park Service is offering a reward of up to $5,000 in this case. Tips related to this case can be reported to the National Park Service's Investigative Services Branch at: