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Know the West

Who snatched the salmon?

  The fish had beaten the odds. After swimming 900 miles from the Pacific Ocean, past eight dams and up to over 6,000 feet, the almost three-foot-long endangered chinook salmon finally reached the Sawtooth Hatchery in Stanley, Idaho. It was one of only 132 adult salmon to make the journey this year to spawn in the Salmon River headwaters. Idaho Fish and Game biologists know this because they passed the fish by hand from the hatchery to the river above it on July 20.

But the next day, biologists found only the head and tail of the salmon floating in the river; it had been hooked and taken home for dinner.

"This is a crime against Idaho," said Gary Willis, vice president of Idaho Steelhead and Salmon Unlimited. "This fish survived all the dams to get back to Idaho, only to be killed by a thief." Four groups, Idaho Steelhead and Salmon Unlimited, Idaho Rivers United, Idaho Wildlife Federation and Idaho Fish and Game's Citizens Against Poaching, have offered a $1,200 reward for information leading to the poacher. But more than two months after the incident, officials say they are still in the dark.

State fisheries chief Steve Huffaker hopes the posted reward will serve notice to other potential poachers. "We want to know who did it," said Huffaker. "It's an endangered species. People wouldn't think lightly of bopping a bald eagle over the head."

Idaho residents with information about this or any poaching incident can call the Citizens Against Poaching Hotline at 800/632-5999. Those outside the state can call 208/334-3791.

*Katie Fesus