How did a wildlife lover become one of the bloodiest poachers in California history?... - Richard Parker was a self-described naturalist. Then an anonymous tip led investigators to a scene of ‘carnage’


Todd Kinnard is a California department of fish and wildlifeone officer – tasked with overseeing agency operations across the expansive Lassen county, five hours north-east of San Francisco by car. He was on duty when an anonymous tip came in that someone in the county was shooting raptors, birds of prey such as red-tailed and ferruginous hawks. Raptors are not typically the subject of poaching tips. They are agile, apex predators that – due to a diet consisting largely of pests such as rats, snakes, and mice – tend to coexist with humans rather than compete with them.

Kinnard took the tip with a grain of salt. In Lassen county, it is not unheard of for neighbors to weaponize the department’s anonymous tip line against one another out of spite.


Kinnard drove out to the site of the alleged raptor killings to carry out a preliminary, informal knock-and-talk inquiry. It was a large-tract property, roughly 80 acres, in the unincorporated town of Standish. The property sat perched on the banks of the Susan River, a few miles east of the county seat, Susanville. The owners, Richard Parker and his wife, Tonya, were not at home at the time. But what Kinnard saw upon entering the property was stomach-churning. A cottonwood tree near the Parkers’ home was strung up with grisly ornamentation – several dead raptors, all at varying stages of decomposition. Other bodies were scattered around the tree’s base, approximately a dozen in all. Kinnard was notprepared to bag and tag the gruesome cache of evidence dangling from the cottonwood tree. He seized what evidence he could and took the bodies to the fish and wildlife department’s forensic laboratory in Sacramento.

Richard Parker, a seemingly ordinary country gentleman, appeared to have a secret, sadistic hobby and the anonymous tipster had led Kinnard to uncover one of the bloodiest poaching cases in California history.


‘We uncovered a hundredfold more than we thought we’d find,’ says Lt Kyle Kroll.