The idea that someone would steal a 5-foot-tall, 300-pound wooden bear is strange in itself.
But the bear in question, named Bernie, is also reportedly an iconic part of uptown New Bern, meaning whoever took it Friday will have a hard time displaying it in any part of Eastern North Carolina.
A carved bear has stood in front of the of Bern Bear Gifts, a Swiss and Bavarian-themed specialty shop, for 30 years, reports the New Bern Sun Journal. Bernie took the job about a decade ago, after shop owner John Sturman retired a badly weathered bear, it was reported.
The bear sculpture was chained down and whoever did the thieving came in the night Friday, he told the newspaper. Sturman figures it had to be two or three people, given the weight of the bear, the Sun Journal reports.
That suggests it was a plot, more akin to a kidnapping.
The community reacted with anger and surprise, given the crime happened in the middle of downtown.
“How does one even steal something so large without being noticed?” asked Krystan Jay on Facebook.
“Probably (done on) a dare. Now, I dare you to put it back,” wrote John-Mary Lamb.
“Really stupid thing to do, and I hope it is returned unharmed. I liked to pat the bear on the head each time we walk by downtown...so I will not feel right not until I can do that again. Bring it back, now, you snake-eyed scumbags!,” said Rhonda Hogarth.
Some people noted on Social media that this is not the first time a bear has been taken from in front of the store.
Sturman told the Sun Journal that nearly 12 years ago, a previous carved bear was taken by a couple of Marines, who put it in a Marine aviator’s home in town.
“I would feel certain in saying that thousands of pictures have been taken with that bear (by tourists and locals),” he told the New Bern newspaper.
Sturman plans to put a sign in front of his store telling of Bernie’s theft and offering a reward for its safe return.
Anyone with information can call Sturman during business hours at 252-637-2300 or after hours at home, 252-633-2733.