The National Park Service (NPS) is investigating an incident of vandalism and trespassing in Death Valley National Park that may have led to the death of an extremely rare fish, the Devil's Hole pupfish.
According to an NPS release, on April 30 three men, likely drunk, broke into the special, detached Devil's Hole unit of the park, which contains the only habitat of the pupfish (Cyprinodon diabolis).
The critically endangered fish live in a 500-foot-deep cavern filled with water, Devil's Hole. One of the men swam in its waters, leaving behind articles of clothing.
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One of the pupfish was found dead in the water after the men visited the site. Officials say a necropsy is being performed on the fish to see if the men's actions caused its death.
The pupfish is native to Devil's Hole and is often described as the world's rarest fish. Its population varies seasonally, from 100-200 in the winter to 300-500 in the late summer.
The fish colonized Devil's Hole anywhere from 100 to 800 years ago, according to researchers who studied its breeding earlier this year.
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The men, who left behind multiple beer cans, carried guns they fired at least 10 times while shooting at signs, the locks of chained gates and motion sensors.