Nearly a week after the Oregon wildlife refuge occupation ended, federal authorities poring over the site say they have found firearms and explosives as well as “significant amounts of human feces” around an area that’s home to cultural artifacts.
The FBI said after the occupation concluded last week that it had begun a weeks-long process of searching the sprawling Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for explosives and other evidence. This effort involves agents specifically trained in dealing with crimes related to art and cultural property, because the refuge is the historical home to the Burns Paiute Tribe and thousands of tribal artifacts are at the site.
FBI agents combing through the site located a lot of human excrement near one sensitive cultural site and more human excrement on or near grounds with sensitive artifacts, federal prosecutors said in a court filing on Tuesday.
The tactical team that first secured the refuge found excrement in and around an outdoor camping area “is adjacent to or on a particularly sensitive cultural site,” according to the filing from the office of Billy J. Williams, the U.S. attorney for the District of Oregon.
Williams’s office said that they found a lot of this feces in and around an outdoor camping area. In addition, prosecutors said that the occupiers seem to have gotten into grounds holding artifacts.
“Occupiers appear to have excavated two large trenches and an improvised road on or adjacent to grounds containing sensitive artifacts,” the filing stated. “At least one of these trenches contains human feces.”
In addition, agents have found guns and explosives around the area and that they are concerned about the remaining locations in the refuge that have to be searched.
“There are numerous vehicles on the site and the FBI is concerned that vehicles and buildings may be booby trapped,” the filing said.
This document was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon after attorneys for the occupiers petitioned for access to the refuge. A grand jury indicted 16 people for the refuge occupation earlier this month, and last week Williams said that another nine people had been indicted for their roles.
An armed group seized the refuge on Jan. 2 in support of two local ranchers convicted of arson and soon said they were fighting the federal government’s management of federal lands. A little more than three weeks later, the FBI and Oregon State Police arrested the occupation’s leaders while they traveled on a highway outside the refuge. In that same encounter, an Oregon state trooper fatally shot LaVoy Finicum, a spokesman for the occupiers.
After the Jan. 26 arrests, other people fled the refuge or turned themselves in, leaving just four well-armed holdouts there for another two weeks. The group surrendered last Thursday after an extended period of frantic negotiations that involved a Nevada assemblywoman, an evangelist from North Carolina and an audience of tens of thousands listening online.
In addition to the people indicted so far for the refuge occupation, the father of the group’s leader was also arrested last week. Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who had his own armed standoff with federal agents, was taken into custody in Oregon last week for his actions during an armed confrontation at his ranch in 2014.
Bundy remains in jail after judge refused to release him during a hearing Tuesday in Portland.