Maine Audubon seeks return of stolen wildlife exhibits

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FALMOUTH — Display cases housing snowshoe hare and pond turtle exhibits and a red fox pelt were stolen from a locked pickup truck, and Maine Audubon wants them back.

The items were part of a collection maintained for scientific and educational purposes, Maine Audubon Education Director Eric Toppers said last week.

“To take these items is a sign of some sort of desperation to me,” he said.

On Jan. 24, a Maine Audubon instructor brought exhibits to display in the children’s area at a Home Energy Fair at Falmouth Elementary School, Topper said.

After the fair, the instructor, whose name Topper declined to release, brought the exhibits home to Portland with the intention of bringing them back to Gilsland Farm Audubon Center in Falmouth on Jan. 26.

Sometime between Sunday afternoon and Monday morning, however, the three items were stolen from the back seat of the instructor’s locked truck, Topper said.

The snowshoe hare that was stolen has a spring coat, showing the hare’s transition from winter white to summer brown, and was part of a set that included a white-furred specimen, he said.

“We use those together to teach seasonal changes that animals undergo in different adaptations and camouflage and all those of wonderful concepts that you could when you have this one particular mount in this one particular phase,” he said.

The stolen pond slider turtle specimen was found dead by the side of a road by a Maine Audubon educator 20 or 25 years ago, he said.

Topper said the instructor filed complaints with the Portland Police Department and the management of the Custom House Parking Garage, where she keeps her truck.

He said it was not clear if Maine Audubon’s insurer will cover the loss. He pegged the cost of replacing the hare and turtle mounts at about $1,000 and the fox pelt at between $250 and $500.

“It’s a shame,” Topper said. “The fact that they were in sort of the regular rotation of heavily used mounts, that means that there are teachers who are counting on using them year after year after year, and students were looking forward to seeing those two mounts as part of the (educational displays) going up in their classrooms in the spring.”

Maine Audubon houses a large collection of such exhibits at Gilsland Farm Audubon Center in Falmouth and a similar, smaller one at Fields Pond Audubon Center in Holden, Topper said, adding that the nonprofit holds a special permit to possess scientific collections from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Anyone with information about the burglary is encouraged to call Portland police at 874-8575 or Maine Audubon at 781-2330 or emailinfo@maineaudubon.org.

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Audubon to hold Winter Carnival in Falmouth

FALMOUTH — Maine Audubon will host its annual Winter Carnival on Saturday, Feb. 14, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

The event is free for members and children under 2. There is a $7 general admission fee for non-members.

Activities will include snowshoe rentals, a scavenger hunt, story walk, a snowy owls interactive display, music, refreshments and more. New this year will be the release of the organization’s new children’s book series, “A Snowy Owl Story.”

The carnival is a featured event of the Great Maine Outdoor Weekend. For more information contact Beth Pauls at 207-781-2330 ext. 273.

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