GREAT FALLS — Montana Fish, Wildlife, Parks is asking for help identifying whoever is responsible for killing trout in the display pond at the Giant Springs Fish Hatchery in Great Falls.
Game Warden Andrew Burton of Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks believes that someone scaled the chain link fence surrounding the hatchery and used a knife to spear and slash many of the large trout in the circular display pond sometime after sunset on Sunday, August 22.
Numerous fish in the tank were found with severe cuts and puncture wounds, which resulted in six fish being euthanized the next day, according to a news release from FWP. Other fish were found dead in the park, and hatchery workers hope that other affected fish in the tank will survive and recover from their injuries.
“This is beyond just an act of senseless and stupid vandalism,” said Burton. “People really love seeing and feeding these big fish, and they are one of the most popular attractions in Giant Springs State Park and the hatchery. Since some of them were six years old or even older, it’s going to take a while now to replace them.”
Reaction from visitors at Giant Springs State Park on Thursday to the mutilation of fish in the park's show pond was what you would expect.
"It's real sad back there because the fish that are in here are for everybody,” said fisherman Glen Sharp. "Being a wrangler right here and wanting to fish and enjoy it, too, it's even worse."
"It was really kind of surprising to think that would be a target for anything other than just bringing the family by to learn and enjoy some Montana nature,” said Hannah Crane of Great Falls.
Crane brought her son to the playground at the park and says on the ride there she talked to him about what happened.
"One of the things he asks when he knows we're coming down this way is 'Are we going to see the fish?' I was trying to explain to him there's not going to be as many, they're not going to be as big as we usually see them. They're not going to be as beautiful and swimming around as much. They're hurt now,” said Crane.
FWP Game Warden Dave Holland said, "We're hoping that the public on Monday or Tuesday may have noticed on social media or have encountered a person showing off or bragging about a fish that they may have caught.”
Holland said growing more fish to the size of the ones lost will take years and while losing some of the brood stock is frustrating, the worst part for him is the educational impact.
"This is an opportunity for the general public to come learn about fish, learn how great of a fishery Montana has and to feed them and to get an education. That's what the real tragedy here is,” Holland said.
FWP declined to say whether surveillance cameras were in use at the time of the incident, but did say they are working to increase security at the park. If you have any information about what happened, call 1-800-TIPMONT.