The Madison County Sheriff’s Office said two juveniles were charged in connection to vandalizing property and killing up to 30 fish at the Ennis National Fish Hatchery. Officials are not releasing the suspects’ names.

Phil Fortner, sheriff, said the two suspects are each charged with felony aggravated animal cruelty. He said they are also each charged with misdemeanor criminal mischief.

Fortner said the two suspects are from outside Madison County. He said he couldn’t release any more information because of the suspects’ age.

The incident is still under investigation and no court date has been set.

Fortner has said that employees at the hatchery suspect the vandalism happened on Oct. 27, between 8:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. A hatchery employee who lives above the building reported two people recklessly driving a yellow ATV in the parking area around the time the fish were killed.

The hatchery, southwest of Ennis, cares for adult rainbow trout and is the largest facility in the National Broodstock Program, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s website. It produces about 20 million eggs annually for research facilities, universities and federal, state and tribal hatcheries in 23 states.

Ron Hopper, hatchery project leader, has said that the suspects used ice-chopping tools and garden hoes to kill the fish. He said the assailants broke the handles on the garden hoes from beating and cutting the fish.

Among the fish that were killed was a 7-year-old rainbow trout named “Big Bill” that was on display. The fish weighed roughly 12 pounds.

Hopper said the hatchery would start locking its doors and add video cameras because of the incident. Prior to the slaughter, he said, the hatchery was unlocked because it was comfortable with people visiting after hours.

Freddy Monares can be reached at fmonares@dailychronicle.com or at 406-582-2630.

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