On January 24, 2024, a tragic incident on the Duckabush River in Jefferson County, Washington, resulted in the loss of a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) employee.

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What happened to Mary Valentine?

As reported in a press release from the WDFW, Mary Valentine, a seasonal scientific technician with the WDFW Fish Program's Science Division, was working along the river with a smolt trap on Tuesday, January 23. Mary did not check in with her team members that evening, and was reported missing on the morning of January 24.

Jefferson County Sherriff's Office were able to locate Mary's body in the water of the Duckabush, which was recovered and transported by the Jefferson County Coroner's Office. The Jefferson County Coroner is conducting a review of the incident.

Director Kelly Susewind stated:

We are extremely saddened with this loss. Mary was a dedicated employee since 2022 and very committed to our work monitoring salmon and steelhead populations. She was a beloved team member at WDFW. Our hearts are with her family and all who knew and worked with her.

WDFW has temporarily halted smolt trap activities at the Duckabush River, where seasonal smolt counts are taken as part of monitoring status and trends of salmon and steelhead populations.

Duckabush River information

Duckabush River is located in the Olympic National Park. It lies west of Seattle, going from the Puget Sound to Mount Duckabush, and is known for its salmon runs. The name comes from the Twana (Skokomish), meaning "place of the crooked-jaw salmon."

In addition to the WDFW, the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group is dedicated to restoring the estuary. The goal is to reconnect the Duckabush with other historical water channels, fixing a long growing problem caused by highway fill. Doing so would also create jobs in the area and restore a key part of the ecosystem to the Olympia peninsula.

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