When employees at Alberta’s Lionsheart Wholeness Center returned to work after a cold snap that hit over the weekend of Jan. 13, it took them a while to notice that something was mysteriously absent from the rural retreat center. Somehow, a 12-foot-tall, full-body polar bear mount that had long presided over the second floor had vanished into thin air.
It wasn’t until Jan. 22 that staff were able to report the missing taxidermy bear, nicknamed Harry, to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. As of Jan. 29, investigators still hadn’t identified any suspects.
There were, however, some clues left behind. The cables that had once secured the bear had been cut, and there were drag marks on the floor from where the thieves dragged the 500-pound piece of taxidermy across the balcony. Somehow, they managed to get the mount down the stair and through the double front doors.
“It had to be planned,” executive director Wanda Rowe told the St. Albert Gazette, adding that the thieves likely had a running vehicle waiting to pick them up and drive the bear away. “It 100 percent had to be planned.”
The center is usually under around-the-clock security, but officers had been sent home due to the plunging temperatures. That 24/7 security was the result of a different taxidermy heist that occurred in August 2023, when two full-body-mount raccoons were stolen.
Two raccoon mounts were stolen from the center in August 2023. Photograph obtained by Outdoor Life from Royal Canada Mounted Police
The center is also currently home to other taxidermy as well, which the thieves left unharmed. Those pieces include a cougar, a bison, a few deer, and a musk ox. The Redwater RCMP estimate the total cost of the polar bear and two raccoons around $35,000.
Taxidermy theft is a shockingly pervasive issue. It takes a special type of lowlife to justify stealing the head, hide, or antlers of an animal that a different person worked to harvest. Deer and elk hunters are all too familiar with antlers disappearing from their front yards and vehicles. Taxidermy work is expensive and desirable, which drives some of the demand for it. Of course, some taxidermy heists are also pranks, despite how difficult and clunky they are to pull off.
Redwater RCMP are asking for the public’s help in finding Harry. Anyone with information can call their office at 780-942-3607 or submit an anonymous tip here.
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