May 13, 2016
Vandalism At Devil's Hole
Devil's Hole is a non-contiguous part of Death Valley National Park over on the Nevada side. It's completely off limits to tourists as it is a home to the rare pupfish. It made the news (a little bit) in 2010 when it showed dramatic effects of the Mexicali earthquake hundreds of miles away.
On April 30 three men broke through the fence surrounding Devil's Hole by shooting off the locks. They then proceeded to vandalize the area and actually enter Devil's Hole itself.
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.
A map of Devil's Hole:
UPDATE: The vandals have been identified, but not apprehended yet, I think.