A moosenapper is on the prowl.
Brazen thieves have stolen the statuary-like moose figure that welcomed shoppers to Cottage Gardens in Hermitage. The moosenappers hoofed off with the 6-foot-tall figure after the garden and flower center on East State Street closed at 7 p.m. Monday. The figure was discovered missing when employees arrived at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Dubbed by store employees as Kris, as in Kris Kringle, his value was racked up at $975 by Cottage Gardens’ co-owner Ryen Roberts.
“But that’s not counting the labor of love we put into him,’’ Roberts said.
Discovering him at a trade show three years ago, Roberts said she immediately fell in love with the creature. Although moose aren’t native to northwestern Pennsylvania, Kris fit in well with the operation and was an object of interest to motorists driving past the store.
Composed of wires on the inside, the creation was initially stuffed with moss and had plants hanging from it. Cottage Gardens kept the figure inside the store but moved him out front along East State Street over the past year.
“We had him all decorated at Christmas,’’ Roberts said.
Since birds plucked out much of the moss, that was removed from Kris in favor of foliage.
“I put burlap over him to have a little fun,’’ she added.
Weighing at most 75 pounds, Kris is hollow and couldn’t easily be broken down into pieces.
“Whoever took this, needed to pick up the whole thing as one piece,’’ Roberts said.
Such a theft hasn’t been seen in this neck of the woods since May 2003 when Cluck was stolen. The chicken mascot of Sharon-based Quaker Steak & Lube graced a billboard on U.S. Route 62 at Chestnut Ridge Road in Hubbard Township. Cluck was chicken-napped from that same billboard in September 2001.
Police have their antlers raised for anyone with information about the moose theft.
Brian Blair, Hermitage police chief, said there wasn’t any evidence to determine the motive behind the theft.
“It could be anything from a high school prank to somebody wanting a moose in their back yard,’’ Blair said.
Thefts from in front of businesses is not unheard of in Hermitage, he added.
“We get those every once in a while,’’ Blair said. “This is unique because it’s a moose. In recent history this is the most unusual item.’’
Based on value, thieves could be charged with a misdemeanor in the first degree, which can carry a maximum penalty of up to 5 years in prison, said a spokesman for the Mercer County District Attorney’s office.
Rather than prison time, Roberts is making this offer to the thieves: Return Chris unharmed and no questions will be asked.
“I hope I find my old buddy,’’ she said.
6-foot garden creature stolen
A moosenapper is on the prowl.
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