One critically endangered Devils Hole pupfish was found dead.
Authorities have identified three men who broke into part of a wildlife refuge in Nevada in a drunken binge on April 30, possibly killing one of the rarest fishes on Earth.
Devils Hole is a cavern pool fed by a hot spring near Death Valley National Park, and the only natural habitat of the critically endangered Devils Hole pupfish, which has been described as the world’s rarest fish. Heavily dependent on a shallowly submerged limestone shelf for spawning, the major threat the pupfish face is groundwater depletion due to irrigation.
Only 115 pupfish were counted this past April, though their population has greatly fluctuated in recent years, falling to as low as 35 individuals in 2013.
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“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 told CBS News.
The men reportedly climbed a fence guarding Devils Hole and fired at least 10 rounds from a shotgun, shooting the locks off of two gates and hitting a motion sensor and several signs. They left beer cans and vomit, and one man waded into the cavern containing the rare pupfish, leaving his boxer shorts in the water.
The men were identified following tips from the public after authorities released surveillance video of the men climbing a fence and driving away. Law enforcement officials have not released the names of the suspects, as it is an active investigation.
The Center for Biological Diversity had originally offered $15,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case, and the National Parks Service added $5,000.
A necropsy is being performed on the fish to determine whether the men’s actions are responsible for its death.
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