Wildlife lover turned poacher and killed more than 150 protected birds of prey and a cougar

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A self-proclaimed wildlife enthusiast was later revealed to be one of the bloodiest bird poachers in California history after killing animals for years.

Richard Parker slaughtered more than 150 birds of prey around his home in Standish, a remote town in Lassen County, Northern California – although authorities fear his killing spree would have gone unnoticed for years.

When confronted, Parker claimed he was culling birds of prey to keep them from killing local game birds such as waterfowl.

Parker was arrested in 2018 after officials from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife – acting on an anonymous tip – found nine rotting bird carcasses near his home.

After staking out his property, the officer saw Parker taking pot shots at protected birds of prey and quickly moved in.

A grid search of Parker’s 80 acres of land with specialized cadaveric dogs found nearly 150 birds in various states of decomposition, as well as two dead bobcats, a taxidermied cougar, and other non-rickety birds – all suspected of illegally killed.

Richard Parker poaching over 150 birds of prey, such as red-tailed hawks and other wildlife

Richard Parker poaching over 150 birds of prey, such as red-tailed hawks and other wildlife

In executing a search warrant on Parker's 80-acre property near Standish, California, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife found carcasses of more than 135 birds and mammals, including the hawks and stuffed cougar pictured here

In executing a search warrant on Parker’s 80-acre property near Standish, California, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife found carcasses of more than 135 birds and mammals, including the hawks and stuffed cougar pictured here

In April 2019, Parker, then 68, pleaded guilty to crimes related to poaching of more than 150 birds of prey and other wildlife.

He was sentenced to three months in prison, a fine of $ 75,000 and five years probation. The terms of his probation prohibit him from possessing firearms or from hunting or fishing in any way.

Kyle Kroll, the local fish and game warden, related The Guardian he feared the actual death toll was much higher.

“Who knows the actual size,” said Kroll.

‘We’ve uncovered a hundredfold more than we thought we would find. But things don’t last long in the wild. The actual magnitude of the massacre was probably much greater. ‘

The dead birds found on Parker's property were in various stages of decomposition

The dead birds found on Parker’s property were in various stages of decomposition

A red-tailed hawk - similar to the one pictured above - was the most common target for Parker's predatory poaching

A red-tailed hawk – similar to the one pictured above – was the most common target for Parker’s predatory poaching

California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials made the shocking discovery at Parker's property in Standish, Norther, California

California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials made the shocking discovery at Parker’s property in Standish, Norther, California

Todd Kinnard, an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, went on to conduct an informal inspection of Parker’s 80-acre property in March 2018 after receiving an anonymous tip, The Guardian reported.

Parker was not at home, but Kinnard was greeted by the gruesome sight of nine dead birds of prey at varying levels of decomposition, some suspended from a cottonwood tree.

He launched what wildlife inspectors call a Code Five surveillance plan – spending days in a neighboring property observing Parker’s estate with a powerful viewer.

On one of these mornings, he witnessed a man – later confirmed to be Parker – come out of the house with a rifle in hand, who then took pot shots at the protected birds.

Kinnard had enough evidence to get a search warrant and returned with additional officers and a specially trained dog from the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The search revealed what was described as an ‘extraordinary number of bird of prey carcasses’ – 126 in all, mostly red-tailed hawks, on top of the nine Kinnard had previously found. They also found at least one owl and an unusual migratory ferruginous hawk.

Researchers also found one as well as two dead bobcats, a stuffed cougar, and other nongame birds.

Among the dead birds of prey were red-tailed hawks, above them an owl and a rare migratory ferruginous hawk.  Birds of prey are protected under California state law because of their status as a valuable resource

Among the dead birds of prey were red-tailed hawks, above them an owl and a rare migratory ferruginous hawk. Birds of prey are protected under California state law because of their status as a valuable resource

The dead birds found on Parker's property were in various stages of decomposition

The dead birds found on Parker’s property were in various stages of decomposition

Birds of prey are protected under state law because of their status as a valuable resource in California. They are highly susceptible to environmental stressors, including drought and habitat loss, making them an indicator species.

In addition, being the main bird predators in the food chain, they play a critical role in balancing the ecosystem by helping to control the overgrowth of rodents and small mammals, including voles, mice, rats and squirrels.

The Guardian reported that Richard Parker was a powerful figure in Lassen County, a sprawling 4,720 square miles of Northern California with a population of just 30,573.

Born and raised in Lassen County, Parker supplied milk to the area for 20 years after obtaining a bachelor’s degree.

The area around his home – Honey Lake Valley – is nestled between desert and mountains, creating a unique ecosystem that attracts thousands of protected birds of prey.

In 1999, Parker told the local Lassen County News newspaper that he wanted to rid the local area of ​​an invasive weed and return waterfowl.

‘What I was going to breed were wild animals, little critters, water birds.

“My interest is to have birds and wildlife around me.”

The following year he was elected director of the municipal utility district of Lassen, which oversees the provision of public utility in the area.

But within 12 months of his election, residents rebelled against him after he proposed a 162% increase in electricity costs.

He tried to put the blame for the increase on local environmentalists – or ‘rabbit huggers’ as he called them at a public gathering.

By 2013, his stance on conservation had become so hardened that he advocated logging in the area – widely recognized as an ecologically destructive practice.

Residents said Parker had come to regard himself as lord of the Honey Lake Valley mansion.

He was eventually tried in state court – which meant that 10% of his $ 75,000 fine was returned to the county fish and wildlife commission to help protect the wildlife in the area.

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