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Russia's Cat Cop Dies in the Line of Duty - 2003-07-13

Russia's only sniffer cat, used to fight smugglers of sturgeon and salmon from the Caspian sea, has died under the wheels of a car in the line of duty.

According to Russian police, Rusik, a former stray cat, whose sniffer skills had led authorities to numerous fish smugglers, died as he was performing his duty. The cat was run over by a car in which he had previously found smuggled sturgeon. The driver insisted he did not see Rusik, but police have their suspicions.

The former stray kitten wandered into a police checkpoint in the Stavropol region bordering the Caspian about a year ago. He was quickly adopted by the police, after they noticed he had an outstanding ability to sniff out fish, no matter how cleverly hidden.

Some 95 percent of the world's caviar comes from the Caspian Sea, and the region is rife with smugglers, who sell their illegal catches at massively marked-up prices. Russian authorities have repeatedly voiced concern that illegal catches of the endangered sturgeon is driving the fish to extinction.