The largest raptor poaching case in known California history has ended in a conviction in Lassen County, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announced.
Richard Parker, 68, of Standish pled guilty to crimes associated with poaching in excess of 150 raptors and other wildlife on his rural Lassen County property. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail and given a $75,000 fine and five years of probation.
Probation terms include full search authority, prohibitions on possessing firearms, hunting and fishing, and a requirement to obey all laws. The two firearms used during the commission of the crimes were ordered destroyed by the court.
In March 2018, wildlife officers assigned to Lassen County received an anonymous tip from someone who reportedly witnessed a man killing a hawk near the town of Standish. The wildlife officer conducted covert surveillance of the suspect, then visited the private property and discovered nine dead raptors. The entire local Lassen/Plumas County Wildlife Officer squad later returned to the property with a search warrant. A search of the home and 80-acre property turned up more than 150 carcasses of protected birds and other wildlife in various states of decay, along with spent rifle casings.
Most of the birds were red-tailed hawks, but several other species of hawks, other nongame birds and an owl were found. Four of the birds were migratory ferruginous hawks, which are uncommon in the area. Officers also located two dead bobcats and one taxidermied mountain lion, all of which were suspected to be unlawfully taken.
A CDFW wildlife veterinarian and avian specialist analyzed the first nine carcasses collected. However, investigators sent the majority of the carcasses to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Ore., where wildlife forensic scientists meticulously necropsied 159 samples to determine cause of death. The 400-page necropsy report significantly contributed to the Deputy Attorney General’s ability to effectively prosecute the case.
“We are pleased to work with the California Attorney General’s Office, as well as CDFW’s Office of General Counsel, to put this egregious poacher out of business,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division. “The case came together as a result of collaboration of our local wildlife officers and laboratory and wildlife biology staff from the state and federal governments.”
“Poaching is not a game, it’s a serious crime,” said Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “Richard Parker willfully and egregiously disregarded California law to kill protected wildlife, including hawks. To anyone who breaks our laws for illegal sport, know that we will prosecute and hold you accountable.”
CDFW also expresses appreciation to Lassen County District Attorney Melyssah Rios for her contribution to the monumental effort put forth to bring this case to closure.
The case developed from a tip originating with a member of the public who saw something amiss. Anyone who believes they are witness to unlawful poaching or pollution activity is encouraged to call CalTIP, CDFW’s confidential secret witness program, at (888) 334-2258 or send a text with the tip411 app. Both methods allow the public to provide wildlife officers with factual information to assist with investigations. Callers may remain anonymous, if desired, and a reward can result from successful capture and prosecution.