ENNIS — The Madison County Sheriff’s Office is investigating after someone vandalized equipment and killed about 30 fish at the Ennis National Fish Hatchery.
They said that two people were seen "recklessly" driving a yellow ATV around the fish hatchery some time on Sunday, October 27.
Between the time when they were there and when they left, employees at the hatchery notified their manager that someone had vandalized the property and killed numerous fish.
The Sheriff’s Office said around 30 fish were killed, some even reported to have been bludgeoned to death.
Deputy Wes Heavrin said, “Very uncommon for us. I’ve never had a case since I’ve been here in the last five years that’s even related to something similar to this. This is something that is definitely out of the blue for our county."
He noted, “Word gets out in small areas like this, so hopefully we can figure out what direction to go and help with the pending investigation.”
There is no word on the amount of damage or dollar value of damage to equipment.
The Madison County Sheriff’s Office asks people who have any information about the break-in to call them at 406-843-5301.
From the official website of the Ennis National Fish Hatchery:
Ennis produces about 20 million rainbow trout eggs annually for research facilities, universities and federal, state and tribal hatcheries in 23 states. As a result of the Ennis Broodstock Program, economic benefits weigh-in at 5 million angler days, generating $50 million per year. To meet the trout production demands, Ennis NFH facilities include 38 hatchery tanks, 48 circular tanks, and 36 raceways.
The hatchery also produces 350,000 fingerling rainbow trout for the state of Montana which are stocked in Montana lakes and reservoirs. After 3 or 4 years, broodstock (the adult fish that provide eggs) are “retired” and stocked into public waters in Montana's urban and youth programs. Ennis NFH continues to be whirling disease free, with spring and raceway covers to ensure its disease-free status.