One of Churchill County’s most prized attractions was recently struck by vandals, according to a press release from the Bureau of Land Management.
The suspects littered Hidden Cave with graffiti and the information kiosk was riddled with bullets, according to the BLM’s press release. Graffiti was also observed on several rocks on the trail leading to the cave.
As a result, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for vandalizing the popular spot, east of Fallon.
The BLM and Churchill County Museum have temporarily suspended public tours of Hidden Cave until the investigation is complete.
BLM Public Affairs Specialist Kaitlin Godbey said the graffiti was discovered March 2, although it may have been there longer since the last tour was in late February.
The release said evidence of digging at the archaeological site was discovered as well as obvious damage to the interpretation signs, educational displays and lighting in the cave.
Godbey said no timetable has been established to re-open the tours. Law enforcement must complete its investigation as well as the BLM estimating cost and duration of a restoration project.
“This is the first instance of modern vandalism to the sensitive archaeological resources within Hidden Cave,” said Jason Wright, archeologist for the BLM’s Stillwater Field Office. “Damage to America’s public heritage, culture, and history is a felony crime and most disrespectful.”
BLM law enforcement is investigating the crime and if the suspects are apprehended, they face stiff penalties.
Current charges related to the vandalism of Hidden Cave include the Depredation of Government Property. The charge carries a fine and a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
Crimes associated with the Archaeological Resources Protection Act were also violated, according to the release. Penalties are a $2,000 fine and prison sentence of up to two years for first time offenders, and a fine of $100,000, and five years in prison for second-time offenders.
Hidden Cave is an archaeological site where thousands of artifacts have been discovered and have provided important information about the inhabitants. Prehistoric human use of the cave ranges from about 800 to 5,000 years ago.
Those with information about the crime are urged to call the BLM Crime Hotline at 1-800-521-6501.