California Department of Fish and Wildlife managers believe the discovery near the rural town of Standish in Lassen County, on the border with Nevada, marks the largest poaching case involving raptors on record for the state, spokesman Capt. Patrick Foy said.
Wildlife officers alerted by an anonymous tip from someone who reported watching a man shooting down a hawk “just started finding one bird after the next,” Foy said.
Wildlife officers don’t know what motivated the shootings, he said.
Authorities booked property owner Richard Parker, 67, into the Lassen County jail on charges including take of birds of prey and take of migratory non-game birds protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The website of the county jail did not show whether Parker had a lawyer to comment on the charges.
Birds of prey are broadly valued by farmers and others for helping keep down rodent populations. State law bars killing them.
All of the birds appear to have been shot, Foy said. Most were red-tailed hawks, but they also included an owl, at least one magpie songbird, and North America’s largest hawk, the migratory ferruginous hawk.
David Bess, chief of law enforcement for the state wildlife agency, called the scale of the raptor killings “unprecedented” for California.
It could take years for the local raptor population to recover, Bass said in a statement.