By WAN –
March 19, 2018
Photos from CDFW
Wildlife officers in Northern California uncovered what is likely to be the largest raptor poaching case in the state’s history.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) made the announcement after wildlife officers assigned to Lassen County followed up on a tip and visited a private property in a town near Standish.
When nine dead raptors were found on the property owned by 67-year-old Richard Parker, a search warrant was issued.
When officers returned on March 11th with a CDFW K-9, a search of the 80-acre property resulted in the discovery of a staggering number of raptor carcasses, other dead birds and wildlife. Spent rifle casings indicated that there were more than 140 potential state and or federal violations.
In addition to the original nine birds, they found 126 more birds that hunt and feed on other animals, all in various states of decay. Most of the birds were red-tailed hawks, as well as one dead owl and an uncommon migratory ferruginous hawk.
Officers also located two dead bobcats, one taxidermied mountain lion, as well as other birds, all suspected to be unlawfully taken.
Parker was booked into Lassen County jail on multiple charges including the take of birds of prey, take of migratory non-game birds as designated by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, take of other non-game birds, and possession of wildlife unlawfully taken. Additional charges may be added as the investigation proceeds.
Staff at CDFW’s Wildlife Investigations Laboratory in Rancho Cordova are working to positively identify the species of all of the birds.
As the top bird predators in the food chain, raptors serve an important role in the ecosystem by controlling rodent and small mammal populations. However, they are also particularly susceptible to environmental stressors such as drought and habitat loss. For these reasons, biologists refer to them as an indicator species.
Standish is located near Honey Lake and the Honey Lake Wildlife Area, with habitat that supports a rich diversity and quantity of wildlife. The sheer number of birds poached on the 80-acre property will undoubtedly affect the raptor population in the immediate area.
“Poaching crimes of this egregious nature against raptors is unprecedented in California,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division. “The local raptor population may take years to recover from these killings.”
Each potential violation is a misdemeanor poaching crime at the state level, with maximum penalties of six months in jail and up to a $5,000.00 fine per each raptor. An unlawfully taken mountain lion could result in a $10,000.00 penalty. Each potential federal crime could result in additional penalties and possible jail time.
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California Department of Fish and Wildlife,poaching
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