An apparent tip from a hunter this week led sheriff's narcotics officers to a multi-million dollar marijuana plantation growing in a rural area of northern Sonoma County.
Narcotics detectives Thursday hiked to the grow operation, which the sheriff's office referred to as "the marijuana season eradication opener." The pot garden was located about 12 miles west of Lake Sonoma, according to the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office.
The garden was uninhabited when law enforcement arrived, but detectives found evidence of a campsite nearby and concluded that the operation was likely tended by just one person.
More than 10,500 marijuana plants ranging in height from 3 to 4 feet tall were found and eradicated, according to the sheriff's office. A fresh water source had been diverted to irrigate the plants and a hillside had been cleared of native vegetation.
The street value of the pot plants at harvest would have been more than $21 million, according to the sheriff's estimates.
The sheriff's office warned land owners against confronting possible pot farmers when found on private property during the growing season, instead advising anyone suspecting illegal gardens to immediately leave the area and contact the Sonoma County sheriff's narcotics unit at 707-565-2185.
Suspicious activity associated with marijuana growers has included frequent comings and goings from remote areas, often in camouflage clothing, and leaving vehicles parked along roadways for long periods of time.