The goatfish has come home.

None the worse for wear, the eight-foot gilded sculpture, removed from its building perch earlier this month, was yesterday returned to the man who made it, Washington artist William Adair. "His tail is as scaly, his teeth are as sharp, and his gold-leaved hooves are just as shiny as they ever were," said the relieved sculptor. "I'm glad to have him back."

Adair says his goatfish is worth $5,000. It squatted for years in a niche on the facade of the LeDroit Building, 8th and F Streets NW, until this month, when a young man with a ladder climbed up to its perch, snipped its steel leash, and spirited it away.

"Turns out he isn't a thief," said Adair. "He's a collector."

"He told me he had come to love the goatfish," Adair continued. "Believing it abandoned, and in danger of destruction, he decided on a rescue. He said that he intended to secure it a new home in his Capitol Hill garden."

"When old friends of the goatfish -- among them James Taylor, a street vendor -- complained at its removal, he thought them merely jealous," said Adair. "He figured finders-keepers, you know, first come, first served."

On Saturday The Post reported the sculpture's disappearance. And yesterday at noon, to the cheers of passers-by, the goatfish was returned to Adair's G Street studio. No charges will be filed.

"The guy who took it is a carpenter," Adair said. "He was friendly and contrite. He told me he had never considered he might be committing a felony. He thought he had discovered a fine piece of found art."