A manhunt continues in Delta County for those involved in the $6 million production of marijuana discovered Saturday on the Wildlife Management Area in Cooper.
“This is the largest discovery of marijuana found in my career as Sheriff,” said Delta County Sheriff Ricky Smith on the over one acre growth found. The preliminary counts are close to 6,550 plants some close to 10-foot tall.
Local law enforcement including the Delta County Sheriff’s officers, area Game Wardens, Department of Public Safety officers as well as Hopkins and Hunt Counties including K-9 units and helicopter air support – providing assistance – in search of suspects involved in the production of a “substantial marijuana field” growing near Farm to Market Road 71 on County Road 2082 and the Sulphur River.
Delta County Sheriff Ricky Smith informed the search began around noon Saturday after the State Park officials received a call from hog hunters who came across the campsite and the growers as well as another call with a concern came from another visitor to the State Park office.
“We were told the suspects spoke English and communicated well,” said Sheriff Ricky Smith. “We did a good perimeter search for a car. That they might have left a car and came in here [WMA], but there was no indication. It appears someone just dropped them off here.”
Game Wardens believe the production has been in progress since at least May judging by the make-shift tent dwellings hidden deep inside the canopy of the tall trees and shoulder-high growth among the levees of the Sulphur River. It appears to be two separate sites in which the drugs were dried and backpacked out down the river to FM 71. These were fully equipped sites for what was expected to be a long stay – Honda generators hidden in the ground, large diameter hoses pumping water from tanks in the river, fertilizer, gas cans, hand axes for cutting trees, green spray paint cans used to mask any ability to be spotted from above, air mattresses, canned goods - including growing cantaloupes and tomatoes too, Gatorade, lanterns rigged to charge cell phones, and camouflage army surplus attire. They even had personal care items like toothpaste and dental floss.
“We ran the dogs around the backside in the wooded area along the dry creek and found foot prints. The dogs went all the way to the bridge, and that’s where it ended,” said Game Warden Chris Fried.
There is some reflection from the marijuana leaves that can often give some indication from above, noted Sheriff Smith as they regularly do an air patrol of the vicinity. They are in the process of disposing of the plants which will take considerable man-power to patrol. In the one night of patrolling the scene Game Wardens have already had to contend with “Sasquatch Hunters” or those tracking “Big Foot.”
They have independent contractors to assist in bulldozing a path to the field. Law enforcement is still investigating the scene trying to locate viable fingerprints but are afraid the suspects are undocumented.