It took a few days to even notice Harry was missing.
The polar bear was so big and so striking – 10 or 12 feet tall, mouth stretched into a roar or a yawn, fur yellowed white like spring snow on the prairies – and he stood high on a platform on the second floor of the old resort property north of Edmonton, so you had to look up to see him.
He’d been there so long, it felt like he would always be there. Until, one day, he wasn’t.
“I actually didn’t realize quite how big of a deal this is, because it’s just so bizarre right?” said Wanda Rowe, executive director of Lionsheart Wholeness Centre. She was filling out an unusual police report about the theft of the taxidermy polar bear at the time. “It is a big deal, actually.”
It is a big deal, literally, too. Harry the polar bear weighs 500 pounds and was well-secured inside the building, which has security 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Unlike when two taxidermy raccoons disappeared from the property last summer, there was no sneaking out a side door with Harry.
“It had to be planned,” Ms. Rowe says. “It 100 per cent had to be planned.”
Alberta RCMP Constable Kelsey Davidge calls it: “The Heist of the Big Polar Bear.”
Ms. Rowe says she believes the stuffed polar bear was stolen on Jan. 13, during the cold snap that hit the province. That Saturday, the building that Harry was in was empty, and regular security patrols were cancelled because of the extreme cold.
She said thieves cut the cables securing the bear, leaving drag marks as they pulled it across the balcony, down the stairs and out the front double doors, where they must have had a truck waiting. There was very little traffic that night, and she says people who were staying overnight were in other parts of the property.
Together, the taxidermy polar bear and raccoons are estimated to be worth $35,000.
“For us initially it was emotional, because it’s been here for so long,” said Ms. Rowe, about the theft. “We also felt violated that someone could come in and just take this.”
Harry’s exact history is unclear. The facility, located about 45 minutes north of Edmonton, has changed hands several times through the decades. It was once the Red Barn, a destination country bar that drew masses from the city to see concerts by performers including Johnny Cash. Later, it was the Lily Lake Resort, where the restaurant and bar was called Harry’s, in the bear’s honour. Ms. Rowe describes Lionsheart as an Indigenous healing and education centre.
Constable Davidge said police are hoping someone may see the stolen polar bear pop up for sale online, or come across it in the community. As she notes: “That would stick out right away, If you saw that anywhere, right?”
While there are a number of other stuffed animals on the former resort property – including a bison, a cougar, a musk ox, some deer and, previously, the pilfered raccoons – Ms. Rowe says there was something special about Harry.
“He was really an icon here, and it’s weird to walk by and not see him now,” she said. “Feels like something is missing.”