A Northern California man was arrested after wildlife officials said they discovered the “largest raptor poaching case in known California history,” that included nearly 130 dead birds of prey and a dead mountain lion, officials announced Thursday.
California Department of Fish and Wildlife officers in Lassen County received a tip from a person who said they witnessed a man killing a hawk near the town of Standish. An officer went to the private property and found nine dead raptors during the execution of a search warrant, according to the agency.
The officer returned on March 11 and officials found “an extraordinary number of raptor carcasses” along with other dead birds and spent rifle casings.
A total of 126 dead raptors were found on the property in various states of decay, officials said. Most were red-tailed hawks, but at least one owl and a ferruginous hawk were also found dead. Two dead bobcats, a taxidermic mountain lion and nongame birds were also found, and officials believe they were unlawfully taken.
Richard Parker, 67, was arrested on suspicion of taking birds of prey, taking migratory nongame birds and possession of wildlife unlawfully taken. It is unclear why he had the birds and other animals on his property.
Each raptor violation is considered a misdemeanor, but carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and up to a $5,000 per raptor, officials explained.
The unlawful taking of a mountain lion could result a $10,000 penalty.
“The sheer number of birds poached on the 80-acre property will undoubtedly affect the raptor population in the immediate area,” fish and wildlife officials said in a news release.
“Poaching crimes of this egregious nature against raptors is unprecedented in California,” David Bess, deputy director and chief of the CDFW’s law enforcement division, said in the news release. “The local raptor population may take years to recover from these killings.”