Pot plants seized, destroyed

Merced County sheriff's officials Friday morning seized and destroyed about 6,000 marijuana plants hidden behind thick vegetation in a field just inside the Los Banos State Wildlife Management Area, the Sheriff's Department said.

A sheriff's helicopter flying over the area near Sand Slough Road spotted the plants a few miles northeast of Los Banos, said deputy Tom MacKenzie, a sheriff's spokesman. The information was passed on to the Sheriff's Tactical and Reconnaissance team.

Shortly after 8 a.m. Friday, team members cut their way through 20 yards of brush to reach the marijuana garden.

Investigators estimated the street value of the plants at $2.4 million. The plants had been harvested and strung up on string to dry. In another week, the marijuana would have been ready for packaging and sales. Inside the growing site was a makeshift camp with two wells to water the plants and an area for cooking and sleeping.